Good questions are the backbone of practicing and teaching EBM and patients serve as the starting point. Our challenge as teachers is to identify questions that are patient-based (arising out of the clinical problems of the patient under the learner’s care) and learner centred (targeting the learning needs of the learner).
Here are some tips that we’ve found useful in teaching about formulating clinical questions:
- Teach by example
- Model question formulation for your learners. This not only helps with question formulation but also demonstrates that we all have knowledge gaps and that it is ok to admit that we have them.
- Describe the process of building a question
- After modeling a few questions, describe explicitly what you’re doing. Outline the elements of a well-built clinical question.
- Recognise potential questions
- Look for potential questions in the learner’s cases and help the learner focus on the question(s) they want answered most.
- Target opportunities
- Postcall rounds with a group of exhausted housestaff may not be the ideal time for teaching about formulating clinical questions. Identify other opportunities like during morning report, work rounds, noon rounds, a telephone discussion of the case, or while you’re waiting for the elevator or for all the team members to show up.
- Give feedback
- Give the learner some constructive feedback on their question formulation. Ask for feedback on your own question formulation.
- Use educational prescriptions
- For details, see our Educational Prescriptions section