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woman classLearning Experiences

I want to experience the concepts we've been exploring through reading.
I need to be able to actually "do it," not just answer questions on an exam.
I need practice to apply these skills I'm learning.

Although students may not express these ideas in writing, most learners want more from a course than readings and tests. They expect to be able to perform, create, and apply course knowledge and skills. Rather than thinking in terms of class periods or lessons, consider how you can address outcomes through meaningful sets of learning experiences.

try itTry It! Identify Learning Experiences
What's taught in lecture vs lab sections? How is the content interwoven?
How will students explore course content, actively apply this content, practice new learning, and share their understandings?

When you think of building learning experiences, lessons, or class plans, consider four elements on this page.

  1. Motivation
  2. Information Exploration
  3. Student Involvement
  4. Closure/Transfer


Participants will be able to:
• Apply elements of motivation to teaching.

Begin with a springboard activity or other type of hook to gain learner's attention.

Ask yourself: How will I gain and maintain student interest throughout the experience?

Authentic learning stresses meaningfulness. Students need to care about what they're doing. They need "buy in" for a lesson to become engaging. Consider ways to connect your class to the "real world" from the beginning of the lesson.

Key Elements

Activity Ideas

The Right Foot. It's essential that the first experience a student has with a topic is accurate. Students are most likely to remember their first encounter more than subsequent experiences, so be sure to provide a concise, correct demonstration or explanation before looking at common errors or problems. Conduct a short demonstration or overview of the topic and do a quick check of understanding.

Example: Use clear illustrations such as the Brain. Use Wikimedia Commons: Medical illustrations. Ask students to examine the image, copy labels, and check neighbor's work.

brainstormingRound Robin Brainstorming. The process of recording many ideas related to a particular problem or idea is called brainstorming. All thoughts are listed no matter how strange they may seem. When all ideas have been exhausted, then the list is organized and evaluated. Although often done in groups, brainstorming can also be done individually. Use brainstorming as a way to identify misconceptions and bias.

try itTry It! Round Robin Practice
Complete a round robin brainstorming activity. Brainstorm risk factors, signs, or symptoms of suicide risk.

try itTry It! Identify Motivation
What do you do now? What element will you add to during the first five minutes of your class?
Provide a content-specific example.

Information Exploration

Participants will be able to:
• Structure content for student exploration.
• Select content formats that address learning styles.
• Build active components into lectures and demonstrations.

Help students construct knowledge, learn concepts, and build skills by providing organized access to course content.

Ask yourself: How will students learn the concepts detailed in the learning outcomes?

Key Element 1: Content Structure

What will I teach and in what order? Begin with your learning objectives.

Rather than teaching from the textbook, help students explore cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains related to the learning outcomes.

Example: Use different images of the heart than are seen in the textbook: Heart diagram. To find more options, do a Google Images search using the words heart diagram.


Chunk content. Find natural groupings of information. Cluster, categorized, and organize information. Define key terms.

Example. Use the SmartArt options in Powerpoint to explore organizational tools.


Use examples and nonexamples. Use examples to show instances of the concept. Use nonexamples to distinguish things that are not instances of the concept.

Example: A sunburned shoulder is an example of a thermal burn. A lightning burn is NOT an example of a thermal burn because it's an electrical burn.

Sequence content. What's the order of presentation?

Example: Let's explore techniques to stop bleeding in a conscious patient if there is no risk of spine injury. It's a three step process (1) sit the patient up and lean forward, (2) pinch the nostrils together firmly, (3) tell patient not to sniffle or blow nose.

Show patterns and connections. Identify patterns, connects, and ways to think about content. For instance, mnemonic devices are useful.

Example: Use a mnemonic such as OPQRST History: Onset, Provocation, Quality, Radiation, Severity, Time.

Weave in human elements. What's essential to remember and what did you learn from experience?

Example: Use audio recordings of real people and situations.


try itTry It! Identify Content Structure
Share an example of how you systematically structure course content.

Key Element 2: Content Format

What resources will be use? Use a variety of formats to address learning styles and provide different ways of thinking about course content. Use media to attract rather than distract attention.

Think about all the ways you can help students understand a concept. Let's explore the following formats: text, graphics, audio, motion, multimedia.

Text. In addition to textbooks and instructional materials, use text from professional and government agencies to provide additional depth and alternative perspectives. Traditional exams don’t provide an opportunity for students to recall content. Instead, they focus on recognizing and identifying answers. Students need to be able to explore, organize, and clarify their thoughts in writing. They need to analyze and synthesize information about patient conditions and accurately relay information to other members of a team. Both oral and written components are essential.

Graphic. Visual representations are useful for overviews and reviews of topics. They also provide spatial information that is difficult to convey in text. Ask students to compare different image, label diagrams, or identify signs or symptoms from photos. A popular new approach is the infographic.
Example: Ask students to start a project with an infographics such as Public Health Infographics. Explore Preventable deaths and the Truth about Alcoholism.

Audio. In addition to lectures and discussions, there are other ways to incorporate audio into the classroom.



try itTry It! Explore Content Formats
What content formats (i.e., text, graphic, audio, motion, interactive) do you use right now?
Share a couple formats you might try incorporating.

Activity Ideas

Incorporate questioning and opportunities for problem-solving into class materials. Space out activities throughout information exploration. Look for chances to challenge student thinking.

Active Lecture. Also known as “guided lecture,” this approach combines traditional lecture with embedded activities, questions, and opportunities for students to interact. Students develop critical thinking to increase student comprehension. When embedded every 8-10 minutes, student attention is maintained and participants have the opportunity to assimilate information before moving on.
Example: You might be talking about the fact that TB is on the rise.

Example. Present key concepts: tuberculosis is a bacteria and it’s of greatest risk to you when inhaled (especially in an enclosed space). Present a question:

  • When transporting an active TB patient, what can you do to minimize your exposure besides wearing a mask?
    • Cover patients head with a sheet
    • Spray the area with a disinfectant
    • Open vents/windows
    • All of the above
  • Ask students to defend their answer in a small group.
  • Debrief by explaining why “open vents/windows” is the best answer. Explain why the others aren’t as effective.

try itTry It! Active Lecture
How do you keep students engaged during lectures?
Discuss ideas for embedded activities, questions, and discussions.

Active Demonstration. Involve students in modeling activities and demonstrations. This works well for both analytic and global learners.

Build chronologies/sequences/chains of events. After demonstrating a whole procedure, go back and demonstration step-by-step. Insert a WHY between each step in a procedure. Rather than a list of steps that are memorized, students are asked to focus on the reasons (and the theory behind their actions) for moving from one step to the next. This leads them to think about theoretical underpinnings of the process itself and helps with critical thinking on the test where they are often asked to react to unusual situations and tell the best "next step".

try itTry It! Active Demonstration
Work with a sequence of events related to a demonstration or scenario. Brainstorm the theories that apply. Design a WHY activity that involves students in thinking about "the next step" in a sequence.

Self-Instruction Tutorials. Present step-by-step instruction teaching new concepts in a printed packet, self-instructional PowerPoint presentation or a series of cards. Tutorials are designed to provide new information along with examples and nonexamples of concepts. In addition, practice and feedback is often incorporated into the program. Tutorials work well when introducing new concepts and reviewing difficult ideas, or providing enrichment.

Example: Go to the MedlinePlus Interactive Health Tutorials.

Example: Go to HeartScape.

Example: Go to Public Health Emergency Training.

Exampe: Go to YouTube: EMT Skills such as Vital Signs.

try itTry It! Self-Instructional Tutorials
Explore online tutorials. Brainstorm ways these could be incorporated
into homework or classroom experiences. To find tutorials, do a Google
search for your topic and add the work tutorial such as "respiratory
system tutorial."

Student Sharing. It's easy to get into the lecture mode and forget other ways to involve students in information exploration. Ask students to learn material that they will teach to others. Explore alternatives to lectures for disseminating information.

Jigsaw. Developed by Elliot Arnson, this approach involves learners becoming experts in a topic and sharing their expertise with others. This approach can be used with chapters in a textbook, software packages learned, websites evaluated, etc.


Strategy Menu. Experience an activity called the "Strategy Menu."

Distribute a menu of 5-7 strategies, approaches, interventions or other key concepts. Check off those you're are familiar with.
Each person is given a card with a strategy and description or glossary statement. They should be ready to share this strategy with someone else focusing on key features.
During the first round, participants will pair up with another student and share their strategies. They should take notes on a card, but not copy their peer's card.
During the next round, students share the most recent strategy they learned from their previous partner. They should take notes and be ready for the next round.
Hold as many rounds as you wish.
Ask students to revisit the strategy list and see what areas they wish to learn more about.

Adapt this technique for another situation.
Example: Print out information about 10 related drugs. Ask students to share their drug with a peer and talk about when you would or would not use it for an allergic reaction. Compare the drugs. Switch cards and partners.

try itTry It! Student Sharing
What content would work well for a Jigsaw or Stategy Menu activity?
Brainstorm topic ideas.


Student Involvement

Participants will be able to:
• Apply elements of student involvement to the design of active learning activities.

Help learners practice with feedback and apply content to solve problems. Design activities where you can observe students in action performing the task, discussing the issues, or answering questions.

Ask yourself: Are students really learning what's being taught? What activities will help students practice?

Key Elements

try itTry It! Design Student Involvement
Select one of the ideas above and share how you might use it in a specific lesson.



Categorize Activities. Ask students to categorize information.

Example. Provide information and ask students: how can we classify these? In groups, have students write on 3 post-its ways to classify. Put things into categories. Add something to each category. Or, put things around the outside. Your job is to go back and classify. Write a symptom, situation, on a post it. Others are asked to classify or put in columns.

Clariscope. This decision-making tool helps builds consensus. Learn more.

Example. Focus on dilemmas where all options have problems. Each member has post-it notes and writes one thing which could be done. Share the notes. Each person gets 5 votes to apportion which are most important. These that are placed on the post-it notes. Divide into three groups: essential, desirable, rejected (might be good, just unrealistic). Agree on what is “in” and “out”.

Compare and Contrast Activities. How is the information from different resources alike and different? Why? Compare and contrast sources and types of information. Identify new pieces of information that can be added to overall understanding. Use a three-column comparison chart to help organize and analyze information on topics where there are two or more perspectives.


  • Describe a situation and compare two different courses of action.
  • Describe a situation and compare two different patients.
  • Describe two situations and how your reaction would be different based on the circumstances.

Distinguish Activities. Many objectives ask students to distinguish between alternatives.

Example. It's important that students can differentiate between different signs and symptoms. For instance, they need to be able to determine a patient's level of pain. Or, distinguish between a breathing assessment for an infant, child, or adult.

Order Activities. Many activities have a specific sequence. Pratice sequencing.

Example. Work on ordering cards, post-its, objects, or other physical objects to help students practice this skill. Ask students to verbalize WHY they made a particular choice.

Peer Observations. Ask students to become observers.

Example. One person talks through the process. Another person observes and takes notes on what they would do different. Then discuss their experience.

Personification. Ask students to "become" something or someone else.

Example. Assign each student a drug. Assume the character of the drug. What characteristics would the drug have? Does it belong to a family, have interaction problems, adverse reactions. Rather than examining one case. Students work in pairs. Compare two real-world situations. How would the results be alike and different? Adapted from Walker (2003)

Priorities, Activities, and Sequencing Strategies (PASS). Ask students to focus on a goal, tasks, and sequence.

Example. This activity involves three steps. First, what is the goal? (i.e., stabilize patient, transport patient, open airway). Put categories on different sheets of paper. Second, what are the major tasks. Put on post-its under each category. Third, select a sequence. Which tasks can only be completed after another task? Which tasks can be done at the same time? Which tasks don’t depend on other tasks? Share the results.

Problem-Based Learning. A problem is presented and students are guided through the process of uncovering information and evidence that can be used to identify a solution. Information might include causes of the problem, symptoms of a patient, or possible interventions. This approach has been shown to increase clinical reasoning skills. The key is the environment much be structured to include supportive assignments and activities along with a foundation of relevant information.

Example: Create problems for others to solve. Ask students to place patient information on one side of the card and the treatment on the other side of the card. Students should check the work of the peers at their table. Then, trade cards with another table.

Process or Flowcharts. Create algorithm visual showing a sequence of events. Focus student attention on discrete events, activities, and sequencing. Create flow charts with yes and no answers related to a topic.

Example: Use the ACLS Algorithms Flowcharts. Ask students to build a flowchart for another task.

Rank and Prioritze Activities. Students often have a hard time identifying the most efficient or effective choice. In many cases, they will be asked for the "best" choice on a test. Provide opportunities for students to evaluate and order choices.

Example. Explore sample test questions focusing on the most efficient or effective choices.

Taking Action Activities. Students must practice making choices and taking action. Then, seeing the consequences. What can we do in this situation?

Example: Set up a scenario with choices of actions and objects related to those actions. Under each piece of equipment place a card detailing what would happen in the "real world" if that choice was made.

Think-Pair-Share. Follow a three step process for reviewing course content.


Vocabulary Activities. Many EMS students are overwhelmed with theoretical information because they lack a framework they can use to assimilate information. Rather than a long list of vocabulary, ask students to physically label models, equipment, or situations. Then, a partner will define the element and describe how it fits into the "whole" of a situation. Combining the physical/spatial activity will help some students remember the vocabulary as well as the concepts associated with the vocabulary. Research shows that associating visuals with concepts increases retention. I'll ask faculty to participate in an EMS example. Then have the faculty brainstorm three places in their course where this might apply. It's an easy thing that can be added to a course without much effort. 

Example: Label models, equipment, or situations.
Example: Ask students to take a card and write a word or phrase; or draws a picture of an item; write vital signs. Trade cards and the peer writes the definition or action on the other side. These become part of a game.

Writing Activities. A concern of the task force (Ruple, 2006) is the lack of opportunity for students to develop writing skills. The ability to clearly and succinctly present pertinent information regarding patients is a critical skills for the emergency medical provider to possess. Ask students to complete forms, write in a matrix, keep a journal, write a letter, or create other types of real-world documents.

Example: Ask students to keep a journal. For each reading assignment, select some aspect of the chapter and share a real-world example that reflects the student's understanding of the key concepts.

try itTry It! Think-Pair-Share
Think - Design a Think-Pair-Share activity for your classroom.
Pair - Share your thoughts with another person.
Share - Share with another pair.

Closure and Transfer

Participants will be able to:
• Apply elements of closure and design activities that transfer learning.

pillsAsk learners to draw conclusions, apply new knowledge and skills, and transfer ideas to new learning situations.

Ask yourself: How will I conclude and help students transfer learning to new situations?

It's also essential to review content from earlier classes to ensure retention and use. Students need to see how the concepts are related from one class to the next.

Key Elements


Truth Seeking Activity. Explore a situation when you as the instructor have had different experiences than what is being discussed in the textbook. Share your concerns about the “real world” versus the theory and talk about the purpose of theory. Talk about reconciling inconsistencies. This is a great topic when things “change” in the profession.

Example. Talk about the Hands-only CPR and Hand Symphony and how it was changed thinking about CPR for the general public. Ask students to discussion these changes.

Triggers and Actions. Help students put the current topic within the context of the larger course by weaving content from various lessons together into an activity.

Example. Provide students with a set of 5-7 action cards. Ask the student to take a card from a pile containing triggers such as signs and symptoms, unsafe situations, key words. Ask students to match it to one of the cards in their hand. The moderator then checks the answer. If the student has chosen the best course of action, they keep the trigger card. If not, they place it in the discard pile. The goal is to collect a certain number of triggers.

What's in the Box. Review all of the instruments learned up to this point in the course. They helps students distinguish when each might be used.

Example. Provide each group with a closed bag containing important tools. Each student reaches in the bag and pulls out a tool. Their job is to name it, describe its use, provide 3 specific examples of when it might be used and why it's in the bag.

Error Handling. It's important that a student's first experiences is with the correct procedure. However, once students have developed expertise, they are ready to look for patterns of errors and identify the "incorrect" methods.

Example. Write a sequence of events on post-its or cards. Reorder the elements. Talk about what happens when things get out of order.

Engaging Examples. Provide students with a list of categories. Randomly select a category. Students must write down a single clear example that belongs to that category on a card. Each person reads their example aloud. Everyone places the cards on the table. On the count of three, point to your favorite example. You can’t point to your own. As a group discuss those examples that were selected.

Vocabulary Game. Ask students to recall names, definitions, and uses for items.

Example. Post photos and/or instruments, equipment, tools around the room. Move around adding a word, definition, or situation where it might be used to each item. Move to whatever item is available at the time. Then, go back around as a group and analyze the information as a group.

Still Wonder. Near the end of class, ask students to write a question he or she still wonders about on a card. Everyone places cards into a basket. Individuals take cards. In groups, they try to address all the questions. If your group can’t answer the question, ask the instructor. At the end, ask if anyone still has questions… this should help decrease the number of questions

Big Picture Scenario. Consider a scenario that small groups follow through the entire course. They continue to come back to their patients and needs.

Example. Think about different categories: a water disaster, a wind disaster, a fire disaster, a campus violence disaster.

Stop GoOut the Door Activity. Post the learning outcome for the day. Before leaving class, ask students to take a card and circle: Stop, Go, Proceed with Caution. Ask students to put a stop (I’m totally confused), go (I’m ready to move on), or proceed with caution note (I could use some clarification on…) and leave it for you in the basket by the door. Use this information when planning for the next class.

Download the cards as a PDF.


try itTry It! Select Closure Activities
Go through the suggested closure activities. Select one and adapt it for use in your classroom.

BREAK TIME - full-screen countdown

Some standards and examples excerpt from the National Guidelines for Educating EMS Instructors (2002) from NHTSA.

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