New course, new reading.

Today, I read with great interest Christoferos Pappas’ “9 Tips To Apply Adult Learning Theory to eLearning” as the first assigned reading for INTE 5200 – The Online Educator: Crafting eLearning Experiences. This is probably my first rigorous exposure to learning theory, and as such, represents a first step up what will no doubt be a steep learning curve.

Malcolm Knowles’ 5 adult learning assumptions are reviewed:

  • Self-concept – As a person matures his/her self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being. As such, it benefits adult educators to minimize didactics and instruction and to maximize self-directed learning experiences.
  • Adult learner experience – As a person matures he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning. Tapping this experience by tailoring teaching models to the learners’ experiences improves educational efficacy.
  • Readiness to learn – As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his/her social roles. Incorporating social media and online collaborations into the educational program helps to broaden the learners’ professional networks.
  • Orientation to learning – As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject- centeredness to one of problem-centeredness. Emphasize the direct applicablity of the subject matter to real world scenarios.
  • Motivation to learn – As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal. Similar to the above, there must be a valid reason behind the learning activity.


Knowles’ 4 principles of andragogy (adult teaching), which practically apply the adult learning assumptions, are also covered:

  • Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  • Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  • Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.


I see some of the application here to medical education, particularly in bedside teaching during the clinical years and with the integration of problem-based learning modules in the preclinical years. This is probably even more important and applicable during postgraduate training. I will certainly be thinking about these concepts as I design future curriculum.

Posted in Medical Education

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