All about rehabilitation

Rehabilitation Matters

About all rehabilitation

C-10 Teaching rehabilitation

Teaching other professional colleagues is one of the defining characteristics of being a professional. Moreover, the word doctor comes from the Latin root, docere, to teach. Much rehabilitation practice involves teaching the patient about their condition and how to manage it. Developing expertise in teaching is an essential part of professional training in rehabilitation. It depends upon an understanding of learning and how to facilitate it. This is also crucial knowledge to anyone working in rehabilitation because learning by the patient is a central process in a person’s adaptation to their illness. This competency is set in the context of formal teaching, but one needs to be familiar with adapting instruction to the circumstance to be fully competent. Teaching rehabilitation differs from other healthcare teaching areas because it is or should be for people from all professions, not just the teacher’s profession.

Table of Contents

The competency.

The competency required in this syllabus is that the trainee is “Able to construct and deliver a course of teaching on a topic with at least four sessions each of over 20 minutes, with feedback gathered.” This requires more than a specific skill in teaching. It requires organisational and planning skills to deliver a coherent programme. However, the unique part of this competency is transferring information and a host of other attributes to another person. A document with the expected behaviours, knowledge, and skills and giving some references can be downloaded here.

Teaching rehabilitation.

This competency has three components – being able to teach, understanding rehabilitation well enough to teach it, and being comfortable teaching people from many different professions or not having discipline.

Teaching rehabilitation requires more of the teacher than good communication, enthusiasm, and understanding of your profession. Many professions are involved in rehabilitation, and a significant additional group of people with no specific professional training are also involved. Each profession will have its culture, attitudes, knowledge, values and interests, often so embedded that one is completely unaware that others may not share them. Yet, other professions may differ markedly in these areas.

Thus, when teaching, you should minimise the number of assumptions you make about your audience. You will naturally become aware of differences within your team, but you should avoid assumptions when speaking to a broader audience.

A second problem when teaching about rehabilitation is that your audience may have radically different views on rehabilitation and its goals. It is essential that you can articulate your understanding of rehabilitation in clear, unambiguous terms and that you remain alert to alternative views so that you can develop a shared understanding. Even in a single field of expertise, such as musculoskeletal rehabilitation, teams may have widely differing opinions on the nature and goals of rehabilitation.

Last, you will likely be talking about your profession’s expertise as it applies to rehabilitation. It would be best to have sufficient confidence to share knowledge and expertise you feel is unique to your job.

Teaching expertise

Teaching is a practical skill, and most professions offer training in teaching. They are usually stimulating and well-run, which is reassuring, and they are well worth attending.

There are several journals on medical education which publish articles about teaching healthcare professionals.  Most focus on the most critical type of teaching, on-the-job teaching to one or a few others while with a patient. For example, Annette Burgess and colleagues have identified some “Key tips for teaching in the clinical setting.”. They set out practical advice on teaching with patients, planning teaching, teaching strategies, how to teach clinical reasoning, assessment strategies, including formative assessments, and providing feedback to the learners.

The British Medical Journal has several valuable resources. For example, Shvaita Ralhan and colleagues wrote “Effective teaching skills—how to become a better medical educator.”, which also gives practical advice on improving teaching and teaching skills.  Alternatively, Kathy Oxtoby advised on “How to develop your teaching skills.” Which is aimed at doctors, but the advice applies to all professions. Third, John Spencer advised on “Learning and teaching in the clinical environment.” Although written 20 years ago, it is still downloaded 20-30 times a month.

Relevant theories.

Educational philosophy and learning theory underpin all educational practices because they provide the conceptual frameworks describing an individual’s acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes to achieve changes in behavior, performance, or potential.

Mukhalalati and Taylor, 2019.

This succinct paragraph sets out the importance of theory in education; these generic considerations apply to using ideas in guiding actions such as rehabilitation. Mukhalati and Taylor reviewed theories used when developing educational material for healthcare professions. They identified seven primary categories with many further subcategories of theory. These are set out in Table 1 in the paper.

Bridget O’Brien and Alexis Battista undertook a scoping review of a further theory, “Situated learning theory in health professions education research.” Susan Van Schalkwyk and colleagues reviewed another theory’s use in healthcare professions, Transformative Learning

I have mentioned these theories to illustrate the considerable research on educating healthcare professionals. If you intend to gain further qualifications in the education of healthcare professionals, they will introduce you to some of the ideas. They can also increase your understanding of educational processes.

Practical matters

Many of the principles used in rehabilitation apply equally to learning how to educate others and the content of your educational activities.

Feedback from your students is vital and often overlooked. The Joint Royal Colleges Physicians Training Board provides an evaluation form for trainee specialists to use when teaching or giving a presentation. The form is generic and can be used by any profession for formal teaching sessions. It can be downloaded free here.  It should be given to all people attending.

The Joint Royal Colleges Physicians Training Board also guides a trainer observing the teaching session to help them give helpful structured feedback. The “Teaching Observation Guidance” can also be downloaded here. It would be best to read this single-page guidance when running a teaching session because it sets out many essential features of effective teaching.

You are likely to use slides for many teaching sessions. Learn from others what is good and what is wrong. Microsoft provides excellent, common-sense advice on creating and delivering an effective presentation; you should read and follow it.

I suggest, in addition, that you constantly tailor your slides to the particular audience and session. Slides can be corrected, improved, and adjusted without delay or cost. A presentation is unlikely to be perfect; if it were perfect for one audience, it would not be for the next. Changing the slides also ensures you do not sound bored, as if you have given the same talk too many times.


Every professional should teach, and most will do some teaching. However, only a few will be taught how to teach effectively or will set out to learn. The simplest ways to learn, such as reflecting on what went well and what could be improved next time, are overlooked; they can be effective. Feedback from the students is also easy to collect and effective. Many skills needed are generic, such as communicating well and structuring your teaching. Teaching will improve your practice and understanding and is well worthwhile.

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