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No. 73 – Teaching Radiation Safety for Understanding – 3

May 23, 2012

How do you normally prepare for teaching a class in radiation safety? Do you prepare an outline of topics and corresponding slides and notes? Is teaching then a matter of presenting the slides and checking for student comprehension with written or verbal questions? While this approach may be the model for much of our own training in radiation safety, is this the best approach for adult radiation workers? The answer is NO, for at least two reasons.

The first reason has to do with the insight that understanding radiation safety is more than a matter of understanding radiation technology. New radiation workers already have views, perceptions, or images of radiation consequences before they receive any training.

Views of New Workers (or the public)

Workers already have ideas about radiation from previous training, what they have learned from the media, or discussions with co-workers. Whatever the basis for these existing ideas, they may strongly affect the best prepared information that you attempt to present. Your students will filter your information through their pre-existing ideas and they may or may not hear what you are presenting. If your message does not agree with their already formed ideas, they may discount your information, or worse, they may resent you for trying to change their ideas.

Much of the time when you are presenting what is known about radiation, you will be implying that radiation is less dangerous than people generally believe. Workers or the public do not like hearing that what they believe may be wrong. The challenge for an instructor is how to help workers realize that they already have ideas about radiation and those ideas, images, or perceptions are OK.

Identifying Perceptions

Before you can deal with perceptions, you first have to identify what they are. This requires questions, lots of questions. I like to begin each class by holding up a radiation sign and asking students what comes to mind? Students often do not respond, because they may be reluctant to tell the class what their ideas may be. Therefore, I have learned to ask, “What do you think other peoples ideas may be?” What would a maintenance person do when they see this sign on a door? What would a fireman do? Whatever students respond, I then ask, “Why would they do that?” I get students to describe scenarios of what might happen if they went into the posted room.

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One Comment
  1. jean staton permalink

    We must have the same brain waves LOL. The very first question I ask of each student is :”what do you think of when you hear the term radiation?” I like the class to interact during the sessions, that way I can tell if everyone is understanding. I have videos and slides and questions but interaction is where you find out who is “afraid” of radiation, interaction gives them a chance to express what they have been told previously.

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