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Neher: Probe for Supporting Evidence

The learner has committed and is looking to you for confirmation or alternative conclusions. Don't do it. Before offering your opinion, ask the learner for the evidence which supports their opinion. Allow them to consider additional information. Ask them to think out loud. This method helps the learner build critical thinking skills essential for independent practice.

  • Asking the learner to reveal their thought process allows you to find out what they know (non-teachable moments) and what they don't (gaps in their knowledge or teachable moments).
  • Such an approach actively engages the learner and permits well targeted instruction by the teacher.
  • Your role is that of an "educated facilitator." By probing, you encourage the student to return to their "commitment" in an iterative process.  

Example Questions

  • What were the findings which led to your conclusion?
  • What alternative diagnoses did you consider? What kept you from that choice?
  • What tests/treatment would like to pursue? How would you like to proceed?

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The Five-Step Microskills of Clinical Teaching

Neher J, Stevens, N G (2003). The one-minute preceptor: Shaping the teaching conversation. Family Medicine, 36 (6); 391-393.