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Q & A With AMTA School Summit Speaker Charlotte Milnes

At the AMTA 2013 Schools Summit, February 7-8 in Chicago, massage therapy instructor Charlotte Milnes will lead the education session "Best Practices in the Classroom."  Read a Q&A with Charlotte below and embrace some teaching tactics that you can implement right now. 

What is different about teaching massage therapy students?

Massage involves physical participation that is not typical in a traditional college setting. Teaching massage invites a more personal relationship with the students. I’m “professor” in one class and “Charlotte” in the massage room. There is less "pen and paper" activity and many more hands-on activities; you might say that lessons are "learned on the table." Massage instruction obligates us to not just share facts, but also teach students how to analyze and evaluate. Communication, teamwork and relationships are established with the instructor as well as with peers.  

What are some best practices specific to teaching massage therapy students?

Best practices motivate, engage and prompt students to learn and achieve. Active learning is a best practice that is a major component in teaching massage. This means that students are engaged in the learning process. Lecturing is certainly appropriate at times, but passive learning can be the result of too much lecturing. Getting students involved in discussions, group work, role-playing, case studies and collaborative learning activities will produce the most effective learning-based outcomes.

What are some examples of effective hands-on activities?

1. Two Cents. One way to encourage active learning is to divide students into small groups. With so many different personalities, it is sometimes a challenge to balance the contributions from students. “Two cents” is one of my favorite activities that encourages all students to participate equally. Each group is given an envelope with pennies and a topic, such as "list the benefits of stretching." For 30 seconds, a member puts his penny in the center and speaks on the topic. After the first round, another topic is chosen or a continuation of the same issue is discussed by each member who contributes his or her “two cents.”  
2. Visualization. We offered several spa menus to students interested in spa bodywork. From the Midwest to Maui, sample menus were compared. As a follow-up activity, students created their own spa menus with the skills they presently had available. They also considered future techniques they could acquire and later add to their menu. Visualizing a possible future is a powerful activity for students. 
3. Guest Speakers. Since students’ ultimate goal is to find a career in massage, one way to engage students is to invite guest speakers from the spa and medical fields to share their experiences. We have hosted a hospital oncology massage therapist, a hospice director, a massage franchise owner, a spa massage therapist and a health care massage therapist, to name a few. Students have the opportunity to ask questions of these experts in the field, and are always attentive. 


Why should instructors attend “Best Practices in the Classroom” at the Schools Summit?

Many massage therapy instructors have skills from professional experience along with continuing education. Effectively transitioning those experiences into the classroom may be challenging. Massage instructors who have an inherent desire to teach will discover classroom techniques to help them create the best possible learning environment. This session will present different approaches and practical ways to enhance professional skills. Active learning strategies will be introduced to meet the needs of their students. Participants will have the opportunity to interact and share their best practices, as well.
Charlotte Milnes is an adjunct professor at Schoolcraft College in both the massage therapy and collegiate skills department. She has a Master’s degree in reading and works with developmental education students. Milnes has conducted educational workshops, facilitated an AMTA Schools Summit workshop and presented an AMTA webinar on Introduction to Competencies.
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