Ever felt frustrated that your message isn't understood? Ever felt nervous about speaking up?


Helping another person to understand something is one of the most fundamental aspects of facilitating learning. Although the idea of explaining something may seem straightforward, it is not an easy skill to master. ‘Good’ explanations are clear, succinct and logically organised. They also emphasise important points, give appropriate examples and use appropriate vocabulary. Read our Hints and Tips Sheet for more ideas on explaining as a clinical teaching/learning strategy.

Helping listeners to follow an explanation

Judy McKimm describes 4 tactics for helping listeners to follow an explanation.

  • Signposts - these are statements which indicate the structure and direction of an explanation eg. first I will...., second..... and finally.....
  • Frames - these are statements which indicate the beginning and end of a topic. They are particularly important in complex situations which may involve many levels of explanation. eg. so that ends the discussion on X, let’s now look at the role of Y in .....
  • Foci - these are statements and emphases which highlight the key points of an explanation eg. so the main point is... this is very important...
  • Links - these are words, phrases or statements which link one part of an explanation with another part. Links are more conspicuous by their absence and often a teacher assumes that learner has made the links themselves about the topic and how it relates to other areas of learning. It is important here to think about the level at which your learners are studying.

McKimm, J. & Collie, C. (2007). Facilitating learning: Teaching and learning methods. Creating and supporting opportunities to learn through work participation. E-learning modules, London Deanery, http://www.faculty.londondeanery.ac.uk/e-learning/facilitating-learning-in-the-workplace/creating-and-supporting-opportunities-to-learn-through-work-participation