Teach back

I don’t usually write these blogs in the first person but this one is a little different. I was doing a workshop the other day – training people who work in important jobs. They were caseworkers and the intimate group of only 8 participants had some great insights. When we reached the part about checking for understanding, I asked them, “How do you check that your clients know what you mean? What questions do you ask them to make sure you do that properly?’’ One participant replied with this comment,

“I always say, does that make sense?”  

Her colleagues agreed that she DOES always say this, and we all laughed. Because questions like, ‘does this make sense’ do not make sense and ones like ‘do you understand’ do not help your client to understand. We need a skilled way of checking in and allowing more time for our clients to take in the information accurately. Some of you may do this already and there are many many ways of checking for understanding out there, some more popular than others. If you have mastered a way to do it and it is working for you, carry on. You can build on your existing repertoire and add ‘teachback’ to your methods. It may seem simple, but when done well, it can be really effective. It has also been very well researched in the USA, so why not give it a try.

So you don’t condescend or belittle, try these questions to frame teach-back in a positive way.

“I need to check that I explained well. What did you understand from what I said?”
“What will you tell your partner/ carer/ housemate when you get home?”
“We just explained some really complex information…let’s take time to break it down”

What are some of of the principles of teach-back?

  1. Explain information to the client in small chunks.
  2. Ask the client to explain, or ‘teach back’, what they understood in their own words (or show)
  3. If the client and you don’t have a shared understanding, explain again.
  4. Repeat the process until a shared understanding is achieved.

The secret to remembering things?
Not only does using teach back help with comprehension but with remembering. People who talk out loud have better memories than those who work in silence. If you want to remember something, it helps to say it out loud to yourself or a friend, worker. And this means that it may even make your work a little easier if your clients remember most of the things you ask them to do.

Your next learning experience
Looking for an eLearning on teach back and more? Click here 

Keen on a workshop or finding out more? Contact us

Join us for an event on teach back and drop the jargon! Register here 

Thanks for reading. Tune in for the next one.

Andrea and the CEH Training Team