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Teach Back

Two women discussing

What do you do when you have a difficult concept to teach your students? Do you give the best possible explanation and then ask if there are any questions? If you’ve tried that method, chances are you’ve been met with a few blank stares.

One strategy we like and use is the teach-back method. The teach-back method is often used in the healthcare setting to check in with patients that they have clearly understood the healthcare professional’s instructions. It’s not used as a test or a quiz, but rather to gauge if the teacher’s explanation was effective and if there are any points that need to be clarified or reemphasized.

You can use this tool in your classes by partnering students in groups of two or three to have them explain or recap any material you have introduced. You might say, “Turn to the person next to you and take turns explaining what we just talked about.”

A few examples:

  • When would you use X instead of Y for your search?
  • What’s the difference between Database X and Database Y?
  • How do you get the full-text of an article?

While students are teaching each other, you can circulate to listen for misconceptions. At the end, you can ask the class for any points of confusion that came up during their discussion, for volunteers to relate their explanations, or for students to then apply the concept to an example.