How to Apply Adult Learning Theory to CME

how to apply adult learning theory to cme

You may wonder if your CME is not as strong as it could be, especially if you see few adult learners in your program. Perhaps you are not using adult learning theories when you design your courses. The key to successful CME is recognizing how to use your adult learning knowledge to drive your program forward.

In this blog post, we share insights on how to apply adult learning theory to CME.

Discover How Adult Learners Learn

When creating your CME courses, it’s imperative to use adult theory principles. No single learning theory applies to every learner. While one learner may use text as their source of education, another will use visual formats, and still another will benefit from auditory content. The most successful CME uses multiple theories.

Accept that your learners have different ways of learning. Promoting various learning styles and objectives is critical to CME success. This was addressed in a study published by Postgrad Medical Journal, in which the following was discovered:

  • The learning theory for adults, andragogy, has become the standard against which CME is measured and assessed.
  • Adults are result oriented and need to know why it’s important to learn something and what exactly they are being taught.
  • Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They want to have control over the techniques and goals within the learning process.
  • Adults have a great deal of life experiences and knowledge. They need to be able to connect their knowledge with the learning content.
  • Adults are relevancy oriented. Their life experiences create a certain willingness to learn.
  • Adults are practical. Learning comes best when knowledge is presented in a real-life context.
  • Adults are motivated to learn when they can receive new information that can help them solve problems in their lives and/or work.

Since no single theory suits the learning styles of all adult learners, educators usually use elements that mix and match styles. Consider these when you are looking for how to apply adult learning theory to CME.

  • Cognitivism tries to explain learning through information-processing models and minimizes the focus on a learner’s behavioral response. It highlights the importance of information that is appropriately organized by the educator and the development of problem-solving skills by the learner.
  • Constructivism teaches new knowledge based on learners’ experiences. They will combine their new knowledge with their pre-existing experiences. However, when there is an experience that is inconsistent with their learning, they will change their perception, particularly if the instructor plays the role of facilitator rather than didactic educator. Constructivism also addresses the learner’s need for a social and active learning environment.

Adult Learners’ Desire for Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning enables your learners to plan, carry out, and evaluate their learning experiences without any help from others. They set goals to determine their educational needs and do more to enhance their learning. This particular theory is ideal for learners who are self-motivated and respond well to using technology-based learning.

Traditional Approaches Don’t Always Work

Traditional CME, with its didactic formats, has been shown to be largely ineffective in improving clinician performance and patient outcomes. The conventional approach of CME based on voluntary self-learning and self-assessment has sometimes proven inadequate and ineffective. Why? “They often do not cover the demands of a changing practice. Evidence-based studies suggest that no practitioner can hope to remain competent for more than a few years after graduation without a programme of active learning,” since learning is an ongoing process. However, these findings have also demonstrated the arrival of a new approach to CME that links learning to performance improvement, such as active and self-directed learning boosted by the learner’s own experiences.

EthosCE Can Help Your CME Become More Effective

Every learner in a CME course comes in with one or multiple learning styles. The use of technology should help recognize these differences. The CME needs to be effective enough to meet the learning styles of all adult learners. Educators usually use elements that mix learning styles. A web-based learning management system such as EthosCE provides learners with tools based on text, audio, and video formats, so physicians and other professionals have multiple ways to receive their education.

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!