Education and planning sessions
When educating a patient, oral health educators (OHEs) pass on their expertise as well as their own feelings about what is being taught. The patient absorbs the information and acquires new knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Teaching does not just ‘happen’, it has to be learned and planned meticulously and takes plenty of practice. Before OHEs can teach or pass on knowledge, they need the basic skills to do so, which are known as the principles of education.
Education is based on theories formulated over many years by eminent academics, and the OHE should be aware of the theories of Tones and Tannahill (two expert educationalists).
Tones’ Model for Health Promotion (1993) emphasised that illness is not the responsibility of the individual alone, and that many factors contribute to it, including social and environmental circumstances .
Another theorist called Tannahill produced a model of health promotion concerned with three main areas:
- Health education – educating children in healthy lifestyles.
- Health prevention – detecting problems, such as smoking or alcohol abuse.
- Heath protection – government legislation in protecting the public (e.g. drink-driving laws and more recently smoking bans in public places).
Education experts have proved that individuals absorb what they are taught in ways related to previous experiences .
THE THREE DOMAINS OF LEARNING
Before structuring a session, the OHE must decide upon which learning domain(s) their session falls into. Blinkhorn  described how people learn in three different ways, known as the three domains of learning:
Remember! KAB: Knowledge, Attitudes, Behaviour.
STRUCTURING A SESSION
After considering which domain(s) of learning a teaching session is concerned with, the OHE is ready to proceed with structuring a lesson.
However brief a session with a patient, it is important that it is planned and structured. (While the patient is referred to throughout this chapter, the information is equally applicable when teaching groups.)
The stages in planning a session are:
Deciding upon a topic
This will be either specific to an individual (related to a problem with their own oral hygiene), or relevant to a larger group, for example, talking about snacks to children. When choosing a topic, it is usually best to stick to one area, so as not to bombard the patient with too much information all at once.
Obtain background information about the patient/group
When planning an oral hygiene session, the OHE should take into consideration the following points:
- Size of group – if too big, individual attention cannot be given.
- Prior knowledge – of the group or individual.
- Subject relevance – is the topic meeting their needs?
- Timing – too long a session leads to boredom or distraction.
- Special needs – (e.g. physical or mental disabilities of patients).
- Learning abilities – high intelligence/slow learners.
- Minority ethnic groups/language barriers – will you be understood?
- Social class – bear in mind what products learners can afford to buy (if a requirement).
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