Can Adult Learning Theory Improve CME Impact?

can adult learning theory improve cme impact

Most healthcare practitioners learn through informal approaches, including reading, point-of-care learning, and consulting colleagues. Now, however, more formal learning is taking place, mainly through continuing medical education (CME), with adult learning theory coming to the forefront.

In this blog post, we go over how you can use adult learning theory to improve the impact of your CME.

Learning Theory: Can It Improve CME Impact?

Adult learning is complex, and understanding its framework is necessary. Here are the areas that are the most effective:

  • Perception of the relevance of the educational materials
  • Active engagement in their learning
  • Choosing educational experiences and directing their learning
  • Trying what was learned
  • Being presented with the opportunity to step back and reflect on their learning

The principles of andragogy

Adult learning theories trace their roots to Malcolm Knowles, an adult educator from the University of Phoenix who developed the concept of andragogy, the “art and science of teaching adults.”

To Knowles, applying andragogy principles are critical to the design of CME and other forms of computer training in the following ways.

  • There is a need to explain the reasons that specific things are being taught.
  • Instructions need to be task oriented instead of merely rote memorization.
  • Learning activities should be in the context of common tasks performed by others.
  • Instruction must take into account the wide range of backgrounds of learners.
  • Adult learners are self-directed, so instruction should enable them to discover and learn knowledge for themselves.
  • Adults should be offered guidance and help when needed.

These theories are important because they help educators understand their learners, a key factor in designing CME effectively.

Perception of Your CME Materials

In the process of developing your CME and understanding how your learners view your courses, you must seek out learning opportunities that deliver particular content. Adult learners are self-directed and autonomous learners who prefer to actively interact with CME that addresses their individual learning styles.

What impact can current educational materials have? Learners prefer to actively engage in the learning process—not by listening, but rather by doing. Physicians in particular like to take an active part in their own education through self-directed learning. They also want their personal and professional experiences to contribute to their overall learning. Afterward, they want to immediately share with fellow learners and apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills to real-world problems. Courses that provide learners with feedback based on their performance throughout are the most effective.

Are Your Adult Learners Actively Engaged?

Learners need to be actively engaged throughout their education. They enter CME programs with an active desire to learn and to translate that knowledge into better patient outcomes. However, what happens when their learning experience fails? It is likely that adult learning theory alone will not improve your CME. In order to fix your CME activities, you need to address what might be going on. Perhaps this is a result of your learners being unable to embrace your content due to it not being engaging enough. Are you using only text-based content? Is the traditional lecture your primary form of instruction? If so, you should seriously consider new formats of interactive course content to keep your learners engaged.

Do Your Learners Have Input and Direction into Their CME Learning Experiences?

As you create your CME activities, be aware that your learners should have input into choosing their educational experiences and directing their own learning. They will learn most effectively when they can perceive the relevance of the CME content and are actively engaged. Afterward, your adult learners can reflect on how their education has met their expectations.

Adult learners are more interested in self-directed learning because they are often excited about their CME, so they want to choose their experience and take charge of their own learning.

EthosCE, Learning Theory, and Your Learners

If you believe that adult learning theory can improve CME impact, you are on your way to helping your adult learners self-direct their education, become actively engaged, share input, and apply their learning to real-world situations. An enterprise-grade platform such as EthosCE can provide you with the technology that will enable you to deliver CME that will excite your learners and keep them engaged.

At EthosCE, we understand the challenges of staying up to date and compliant with ACCME changes. We know how critical it is to get things done right the first time when it comes to team-based education and success.

To learn how EthosCE can enhance the continuing education of your healthcare teams, schedule a free 1-on-1 demo with one of our specialists today!