TeachBack: An Opportunity Forecast

This week, classmates Kat and Derek showcased the inner workings of TeachBack via their website found here.   In a nutshell, TeachBack can be summarized nicely using this graphic that I snipped off of their website:

Apologies for the poor quality of image, but hopefully the four main steps are readable, along with the arrow pathways.

The TeachBack process is proving to be very prominent in the health care profession where up to 88% of seniors are reported to be leaving their medical appointments without understanding the key information points from their doctors or nurses. In any industry, where the transmission of knowledge is important, TeachBack methodology will undoubtedly be beneficial. Essentially, the student needs to repeat back to the instructor, what they have been taught.  The instructor, based on the response, will either provide an explanation again (from a different angle) or move on with the interaction, once they are assured that the student truly understands.

I think that because I am fairly a “seasoned”  educator, the strategies in TeachBack are not entirely new to me, even though I have not referred to my questioning method formally as TeachBack. Having been a tutor and teacher for about 25 years, I routinely have students “teach back” to me, in one-on-one situations. My biggest takeaway from this week was from what I learned after watching the opening video from Kat and Derek’s website:


What I very much appreciated learning this week, was a new tool that refines my questioning technique.  In the above video, it is suggested that when we ask our students, patients, employees or colleagues to explain the concept, that we include a clause that puts the responsibility of learning on the instructor, as opposed to the student.

I love this.

We all know that learners will be more responsive to acquiring new knowledge, if they feel at ease and are calm. So many of my students don’t even want to ask questions, in fear that they will “look dumb” in front of their counterparts. By phrasing the confirmation question such that the onus is on the instructor, immediately, the learner can take a sigh of relief, should they not know the answer.

Modified questions from the above video could be:

  1. We have gone over a few things… do you mind repeating the key ideas so that I know if I was clear?
  2. We have gone over a few things… so that I know if I was clear, if you were going to help a friend with this concept, how would you go about explaining it to them?
  3. Would you please show me how to do <insert task>, so that I know if I was clear?

I am a bit at a loss to truly understand why TeachBack is an “opportunity horizon”, as a venture in educational technology, however, I do see its value as a pedagogy.

Any wording that educators can adopt, or practices that they can follow, that make students more at ease in the learning environment, has my two thumb’s up, without question!


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Filed under ETEC 522, TeachBack

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