Teaching tips

We have put together some teaching tips and resources below. Keep an eye on our calendar of events and training and Facebook page and our for further learning and development.

Adult Learning Concepts in under 3 minutes

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Adult learning concepts

How to facilitate discussion & collaboration

An introduction to an instruction design mode

Personal Philosophy and Group Facilitation

Developed by Kim Brickwood

What is a Personal Philosophy?

A personal philosophy is a person’s interpretation of the events and experiences encountered throughout their lifetime. Simply put it could be viewed as why people do and say the things they do. It is the driving force behind their actions. A person’s philosophy will be influenced by their personality, educational experience, personal constructs and their interactions with work colleagues, the public or clients and institutions. A good philosophy is not stagnant; it will change as people mature, undertake further educational experiences and gain expertise in their position.

Why is it Important?

Strongly held beliefs or constructs will influence how a group facilitator/early parenting educator interacts with the people in the group. Important questions for self reflection and development of a personal philosophy include:

  • Why do I want to be an early parenting educator?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What impact do I want to make?
  • How best can I help these people face the impending labour and birth and transition from a couple to a family?

How Can A Facilitator’s Personal Philosophy Impact on the Group?

Strongly held constructs can influence the amount and quality of information and resources a group facilitator/early parenting educator uses, especially where they are unaware of their own subconscious constructs. For example an early parenting educator who does not believe in circumcision may not provide information or resources for the group on circumcision. Other common controversial topics include vaccination and vegetarianism. Birth and parenting practices evolve and change, sometimes in response to cultural or traditional beliefs or societal change. It is useful for early parenting educators to reflect on their attitudes and beliefs around current pregnancy, birth and parenting practices. This reflection will help to identify areas which they could find difficult to address in a group. Alternate strategies can be used to cover these issues for example:
  • Tapping into participant knowledge through a large group discussion.
  • Assigning a fact finding task for participants to complete between sessions.
  • Provision of printed resources on the topic.
  • A list of reputable websites and/or books on the topic.
  • Invite a guest speaker with expertise in the topic.

Tips for using learning activities

Developed by Kim Brickwood

Why Use Activities? “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius Activities are strategies that assist educators to give information without lecturing. Revisiting the RAMP2FAME acronym and applying it to using activities:

  • Recency: Related to timing of the activity. Consider do you want the activity to summarise and finish a section or would you like it to stimulate discussion on the topic? If you finish the session with an activity to summarise, participants will remember it because it was the last thing they heard.
  • Appropriateness: The activity MUST have a purpose and be relevant to the session and session aims. Activities need to be inclusive and culturally appropriate. It is essential that the activity involves some FUN so participants will enjoy the process of learning.
  • Motivation: Use of a selection of interesting resources for activities will increase motivation. Photographs are interesting and can be used in many ways. Coloured cards enhance interest. Cards and pictures are better printed as A4 size if they are to be placed on the floor in a group, any smaller makes them difficult to see.
  • Primacy: This is related to timing of the activity – “things heard or seen first are remembered best”. The learning tool can be used to stimulate thinking on a particular issue prior to providing information. Linking and appropriateness are important here.
  • 2 way learning: Activities require participation of group members in the learning process.
  • Feedback: This is paramount. Feedback gives the activity meaning. Feedback can be done in a group discussion immediately after completion the activity. Butchers’ paper scribing and reporting back from each group shares the learning and consolidates concepts learned.
  • Active learning: When people actively participate in an activity they engage in problem solving and discuss issues thereby actively learning from each other.
  • Multisensory learning: The use of brightly coloured cards and photos and strategies such as discussion and problem solving appeal to auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learners.
  • Exercise and Over-learning: presenting the same information in a variety of ways makes the sessions interesting, encourages people to ask questions and assists retention of concepts and information. It is useful to provide a summary of important points at the end of a topic and a summary of topics covered at the end of the session.

No Time for an Activity?

Most educators agree that they would love to include more activities but they simply do not have the time. A well chosen activity can replace a lecture or presentation. The learning is retained due to the experiential aspect of activities. Guidelines for Using Activities:
  • Instructions must be clear and easy to understand. Know the rules test new activities out with friends, colleagues and/or family to make sure your instructions and aims are clear.
  • Be very clear about the purpose of the activity make sure it has clear learning objectives and is linked to relevant and appropriate information.
  • Be prepared to repeat instructions up to three times, especially if a change of position is required.
  • Allow enough time. Activities usually take longer than anticipated as a great deal of rich discussion can occur during the feedback stage don’t be too anxious, this is where the learning really takes place. Any topics not covered can be moved to the next session.
  • Include feedback at the end of the activity, this includes participants reporting back from small groups, asking the group what they learned or summarising the outcomes of the activity and linking it to the topic.
  • Be careful not to overuse adult learning tools. Balance each session with one or two strategically placed activities to stimulate thinking, energise participants and enhance the learning experience.

Final Words

It has been said that we remember
  • 10% of what we read,
  • 20% of what we hear,
  • 30% of what we see,
  • 50% of what we see and hear,
  • 70% of what we discuss with others
  • 80% of what we personally experience and
  • 95% of what we teach others.
It is unclear where this came from; it has been attributed to two people, a psychiatrist, William Glasser and also to Edgar Dale, an education theorist. Currently, online information from various educational resources disputes the reliability and accuracy of these percentages. Despite this disputation it certainly stands to reason that the more modes used to impart educational material the better the chance of information retention.

More learning activities

Developed by Kim Brickwood

Small group work is useful to encourage networking, sharing and problem solving. Many activities lend themselves to small group work, including scenarios and specific activities with a clearly defined purpose including:

  • Ronnie Pratt’s “When to go to Hospital” or “Warning Bells”.
  • Bronny Handfield’s “Pass the Woman”.
  • Terri Shilling’s “Where does the Time Go?”.
  • Completing a question and answer sheet on community resources designed by the educator.
It is essential to allow sufficient time for each small group to report their answers to the large group. This consolidates the learning and is a great way of sharing information among participants.

Energisers are used to get the group up and moving when there is a slump in energy or between long topics. They can include: massage and or positioning practice; an activity where participants have a question card and they are required to look at information strategically placed around the room and stand under the relevant answer. An example is:

Where can you go for help?

Question card:

  • Baby unsettled & crying all the time
  • Mother's bleeding is bright & increasing
  • Tender, sore, inflamed breasts
  • Baby has white coated tongue

Answer card:

  • Emergency Room
  • Child & Family Health Nurse
  • General Practitioner
  • Chemist

Please note this is just an example. Many more scenarios and stations can be used in this activity.

Graffiti sheets provide a safe way for participants offer a variety of opinions on a range of pre-prepared sheets of butcher’s paper. Questions are posed as open-ended, unfinished statements; for example,

When labour starts I will call .............
Five or six sheets of butcher’s paper, each containing one unfinished statement are placed evenly around the room. Marking pens are placed in close proximity. Instructions are simple. The members of the group are asked to make their way to each of the graffiti sheets, read the question and write down an appropriate end to the statement. They are asked to write down the first answer that comes to mind without reading previous answers or entering into discussion. Many topics lend themselves to this activity, for example:
  • Breakdown of household chores (who does what).
  • Labour support.
  • Breastfeeding.
  • Newborn care.
  • Baby equipment.
  • Community resources and useful telephone numbers.
After all members of the group have had a chance to fill in each sheet, they are asked to collect the sheets, bring them back to the large group where volunteers are asked to report the suggestions to the large group.

Often used in small group work they are a good strategy to encourage group participants to discuss common issues. Scenarios require the participants to read the short scenario and then problem solve by brainstorming answers to questions about the story. This strategy can be used to cover an endless array of topics, for example:

  1. Miranda and Geoff are excited about their first pregnancy. At 35 weeks Miranda notices some tricking and on inspection there is bright blood on her pants.
    • What is the possible cause? What action could they take?
  2. Amina is in the 39th week of her pregnancy. She woke because of a sudden gush of liquid from her vagina. On inspection it is dark yellowy/green in colour.
    • What does this mean? What action could she take?
  3. Mary is 1 week and 4 days past her due date. She is booked for an induction in two days time.
    • What can Mary do to avoid this? Why has the doctor booked an induction?

The carousel is a good way to gather a range of opinion on allocated topics. Carousels are good energisers and discussion starters and they can become extremely frantic and noisy. It is best to limit the size of individual carousels to avoid the activity becoming too lengthy and chaotic. Ten or twelve participants to a carousel are optimal. If the group contains more than 16 participants it is best to break them into two smaller carousel groupings. Instructions:

  • Set up the carousel: (based on a group of 12 participants)
  • Six people are asked to bring their chairs and arrange them in the centre of the room in a circle with the seat facing out towards the room. Ask them to be seated on the chairs (indicated on the diagram by the blue circles).
  • Provide each seated person with a pen or pencil and a piece of pre-prepared paper containing a topic-related heading such as, “How to settle a crying baby”. The remaining six people (indicated in the diagram by the red circles) are asked to stand in front of their seated partner.
Facilitating the carousel:
  • Seated people are instructed to show the topic to their partner and to record all answers and suggestions from the standing participant on their paper.
  • Standing participants are asked to brainstorm as many topic-related suggestions as possible within a set time limit; for example, 20 to 30 seconds, before moving on to the next seated person to the right.
  • Educator acts as a time keeper indicating time to move forward by clapping hands, ringing a bell or instructing audibly, “Move on”.
  • This process continues until the standing participants return to their starting position.
  • The seated people are instructed not to help and to avoid saying anything other than, “I have that one”, and to write down the suggestions on their piece of paper.
This process will take approximately five minutes for 12 participants. Note that this is a fun and very noisy activity; an excellent energiser and one way of sharing group knowledge on a topic. Suitable Topics: Examples of suitable topics for a carousel activity include:
  • How to settle a crying baby.
  • Where to get help.
  • Self care activities.
  • How to schedule partner time.
  • How to manage celebrations like Christmas, birthdays, Easter, etcetera.
Feedback: The most important step! The carousel is deconstructed and participants asked to return to the group. Those with the pieces of paper are asked to share the information with the large group. Discussion ensues as necessary during this process, including myth busting, topping up or correction of information as required. Allow at least 15 mins for this process. Allocate 20 minutes minimum for the entire activity.

Storytelling involves presenting a metaphor to the group through the retelling of a story. A popular story used to introduce the topic “Unexpected Outcomes” is Welcome to Holland written by Emily Pearl Kingsley.

The beauty of storytelling is in its simplicity and the way the brain interprets the information. Scientists have shown that the left side of the brain deals with logic, linguistics, mathematics, sequencing and organisation while the right side of the brain is responsible for music, pictures, movements and kinesthetics.

When a person listens to a story the left side of the brain processes the words and details, analyses and logically categorises the information. At the same time the right side of the brain, which is the core of imagination and creativeness, begins to build images to match the words. Some words may tap into past memories allowing the listener to experience sights, smells and sounds tied to the memory. This means that the story will be different for each person.

Research has shown that when both sides of the brain are stimulated it makes the person more alert and ready to take in new information. Studies on brain wave activity show that alpha waves are stimulated when a person listens to a story. The listener becomes relaxed, their heart and breathing patterns synchronise with the brain’s alpha waves and they tune into the cadence of the storyteller’s voice patterns. In this state the listener is able to visualise and imagine pictures to match the story. Pictures link to the words ensuring that the information received is transferred from the short term memory to the working memory. Multisensory information assists association, memory and recall.

Story telling appeals to all learning styles:

  • Aural learners concentrate on the words, and the paralinguistics of the storyteller.
  • Spatial/visual learners observe the story teller for cues in facial expressions and body/hand gestures. Pictorial memories from their own experience will surface during the story.
  • Physical/kinaesthetic learners use the brain to turn the words into appropriate images, fitting the events and characters depicted in the story. They can sometimes be seen copying the emotions and movements of the characters.

Stories can be found on the internet, The Story of the Little Frog is a useful story for parent education sessions.

Children’s books are another great source for stories for example, ‘Starbright: meditations for young children’ by Maureen Garth, 1991, Collins Dove, ISBN 0-85924-958-1.

Adult Education Theory

An effective early parenting educator needs a good understanding of adult learning principles including how adults learn and learning styles; influences on learning; facilitation styles and how these principles impact on their practice. Adult education theory is based on the concept that adults generally learn differently to children and have specific needs. Children have limited life experience and are open to learning new things, schooling is compulsory and they need to pass various assessments and exams in order to complete schooling. In contrast, adults generally bring broad life experience to groups, choose relevant educational experiences and have well defined personalities, constructs and individual knowledge and expertise.

The Iceberg Analogy

It is useful to remember the ‘iceberg analogy’ when facilitating adult education groups. The facilitator will only see the tip of the iceberg (10%). The tip includes things that can be seen or observed, for example sex, age, relationship status, dress style, stated occupation, and personality. The other 90% of the iceberg is unseen, below the surface and includes previous educational experiences, childhood memories of parenting, schooling, interaction with peers, religion, prejudices, sub-conscious memories, industrial/employment-related knowledge, what happened on the way to the session, interaction with parents, parents-in-law, friends, financial status, employment status, alcohol and other drug history etcetera.

Adult Education Principles

Malcolm Knowles identified six principles of adult learning.

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed.
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences.
  • Adults are goal oriented.
  • Adults are relevancy oriented.
  • Adults are practical.
  • Adult learners like to be respected.


  • Foley G ed 2001 Understanding Adult Education and Training 2nd edition Allen & Unwin Crows Nest Australia ISBN 1-86508-147-7
  • Wilkinson M 2004 The Secrets of Facilitation: The S.M.A.R.T. Guide for Getting Results with Groups Jossey-Bass San Francisco ISBN-10: 0787975788
  • Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative 2007 The Clinical Educator’s Resource Kit

Online sources:

All links active September 2013.

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