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Quick Tips for Being an Effective Coding Teacher

By Geanetta Johnson Agbona CPC, CPC-I, CBCS
At the end of each semester, I am overwhelmed with affection and thank you cards from my coding students. This semester, I even received a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s wonderful to receive such expressions of appreciation, which make it easy for me to believe I’m a good teacher. Realistically, though, likability is not one of my goals.
The way I see it, an effective coding instructor should strive to achieve three goals:

  • Make sure students clearly understand coding guidelines.
  • Teach students to apply coding guidelines to scenarios. Encourage students to think deeply about the information and how they will use the material on the job and during testing.
  • Set an example by maintaining your own coding certifications and having a passion for the industry.

Some may argue another more imperative objective is for students to pass the AAPC certification exam, but I do not agree.

Don’t Base Your Effectiveness on Final Scores—Huh?!

All students are not created equal. Some students may have medical work histories; other students may learn more quickly than others; and some students may be more determined to succeed than others. If a student does not pass the exam, does that mean you were ineffective as an instructor? Not at all.
Do not base your effectiveness as a teacher on final exam scores. You are effective if your students are wiser from your teaching. If you provided knowledge to the students, demonstrated how the knowledge should be applied to coding scenarios, and set an example for the students, you have fulfilled your goals. Beyond that, passing the exam is the stu-dents’ responsibility.

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

With the pressure off as to whether your students pass or fail, you can focus on your objectives. Here are some tips to help you achieve your goals:

  • Keep it simple: Coding can be very complicated. Strive not to clutter your teaching with unnecessary facts. Read the key points from the text only. Talking a lot does not mean you’re teaching a lot.
  • Use illustrations: Illustrations can be very helpful in coding. For example, consider using illustrations when teaching procedures related to the heart or to skin flaps.
  • Ask questions: Ask questions that require your students to contemplate the material.
  • Appeal to your students: Students have different learning styles (e.g., visual learning vs. hands-on learning, etc.). Present the material in a way that will appeal to the students who are struggling.
  • Use AAPC curriculum: Certified Professional Coder–Instructor (CPC-I®) licensees can use the curriculum provided by AAPC. Be sure to study the material yourself so you can explain the material to your students with confidence. Remember to use the AAPC instructor forum when you’re in need of assistance.

In achieving your goals, you can rest assured that you have done your best to prepare your students for the certification exam. Beyond that, wish them well, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Geanetta Johnson Agbona CPC, CPC-I, CBCS, is a medical coding instructor at South Piedmont Community College in Monroe, N.C. She co-owns CGS Billing Service with her spouse, Charles Agbona, and is a member of the Monroe local chapter. You can read her blog at www.cgsbillingservice.blogspot.com.

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