teaching to teach

As our senior residents become ever more confident in their clinical practices, they will also be honing their teaching and supervisory skills. As faculty, that can make your job even more complicated. How does one effectively supervise learners at multiple levels of training? How do we teach learners to be teachers themselves? The answer is to start with the basics and set clear expectations. 

Create a Teaching Plan


If you’re working with a PGY3 or 4 who is expected to function in a teaching role, take a moment to review expectations for clinical teaching on the shift. At a minimum, decide:

  • Whether students and junior residents should staff with the resident or attending (or both simultaneously).

  • Who will orient and set expectations for junior learners.

  • Who will lead discussions with learners. If the resident will be leading, are there strategies or techniques you’d like them to try or that they would like to experiment with?

  • Who will do direct observation of junior learners. This is an awesome opportunity to provide direct observation of direct observation. Does the senior resident need help identifying teachable moments?

  • Who will be providing feedback to junior learners. Ensure this aligns with above (you can’t provide good feedback if your interactions were limited).

Just like clinical skills, focus on setting realistic expectations tailored to the comfort level and experience of the resident who is doing the teaching. Set them up for success by reviewing some effective teaching techniques, strategies that enhance impact, and feedback best practices early -- rather than waiting until somethings goes awry. The more ownership the resident takes over the teaching during the shift, the more your role will shift towards providing feedback on those teaching skills. Keep an eye on strategies that are working well for the teacher and learners and note those that are less effective. Then help residents set goals for future teaching.