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No. 71 – Teaching Radiation Safety for Understanding – 1

May 9, 2012

Many radiation safety professionals, as part of your responsibilities, are called upon to provide training for radiation workers, authorized users, or ancillary personnel. Some of you may also serve as an instructor for the HPS Science Teacher Workshop program.

What Do You Want to Achieve In Training?

Is it sufficient that your students memorize the requirements of your license and radiation safety program? Do you test for memorized knowledge with a written exam? Where does meaning and understanding fit into your training plans? Is your goal best achieved by rote learning for conformity? Or, would you like your students to implement your radiation safety program as a matter of understanding the principles of radiation safety and thinking about what they are doing? How were you trained? Were you trained to memorize or to understand?

Requirements for Radiation Safety Training

The training requirements for occupationally exposed persons are specified in 10CFR19.12. Instruction to Workers. These requirements include keeping workers informed of radioactive materials; instructing workers in health protection measures, regulatory and license requirements, their responsibilities, and appropriate response to warnings: and advising workers on their radiation dose. The extent of these instructions must be commensurate with potential radiological health protection problems present in the workplace. Most radiation safety training is intended to fulfill these requirements.

Difference Between Training and Education

Is there a difference? I would like to propose that there is. I like to think of training as a matter of teaching required knowledge, such as rules and regulations, as a process of rote learning. Training often includes facts and definitions of terms to be memorized. Education, on the other hand, could include raising questions, critical evaluation, independent thinking, deep understanding, reasoning, and developing abilities to solve problems.

Is the goal of teaching to achieve a certain behavior in students or to develop their cognition? We all want workers to follow our radiation safety program, but do we want them to understand why? I do not mean “why” in terms of consequences for failure to comply, but “why” in terms of how our program reduces radiation risks.

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