Teaching: Developing the content

Last updated: Monday, July 03, 2023

After you have developed your learning outcomes and decided upon your delivery method, you are now ready to develop your content for your planned session.

One of the most important points to remember is that the human brain can only process a small amount of new information over a given time. If a learner is given more new information than they can cope with, they may stop learning (‘cognitive overload’). Ways you can avoid this include;
    • Tailoring the session according to your learners' existing knowledge and/or skill; bridge the new information to what the learners know already
    Breaking up your content across several sessions
    • Focusing on principles and essential information, then signposting for more detail.
    Don’t over complicate your content, try to simplify complex material
    • Using plain English as far as possible, avoid jargon and unfamiliar abbreviations 
    Using worked examples to teach learners new information

In practice long-term retention of information and the ability to apply that information requires learners to be taught it multiple times woven throughout their course of study. In the example we are using with our trainee pharmacists learning about medicines for diabetes, you have been given 2 hours to teach them once. For them to retain the information and be able to apply it to their patients, they will need to be exposed to other opportunities that repeat and reinforce the learning such as shadowing expert practitioners as trainee and foundation pharmacists. 

Another important point when developing your content is to keep referring to your learning outcomes. This will help keep your content on track. 

Remember that learners may switch off quite quickly if you are speaking to them, so plan activities for them if you are able. If this is not practically possible, you can still ask questions of your learners throughout your session to try to keep them engaged. Take care to give them time to answer your questions: don't speak too soon despite the silence being a little uncomfortable.

Finally, once you are happy with your content, rehearse your session, especially your opening lines, to increase your confidence prior to your teaching session. The more familiar you are with the content, the more your learners will trust what you are saying. Practise in front of a mirror, your flatmates, your partner or even your dog! Get feedback and iron out any problem areas.