Ten Tips for Adult Learning

These ten tips are from an article for surgeons but the ten tips are also applicable for all forms of adult education. Especially in training residents the hidden curriculum and ad hoc events occurring in a convenient pause in the hectic daily activity are important educational encounters. In this day and age medical training should be as efficient and effective as possible. For me the insight that training residents is making use of adult education was an eye opener. In adult education it is important what the trainee does instead of attending passive transfer of information.

This article not only delivers the ten tips but also represents an overview of the evidence for these tips and the authors make suggestions for implementing these tips in practice.

Tips for the educational climate

  • Create a constructive learning environment. By this the authors mean: mutual respect, shared vision, two-way communication flow, group reflection, and a preference for support rather than blame. These aspects in short mean giving education a status within the department.
  • Know your stuff; but even more important admit when you don’t. This improves the learning from role models. These role models should know their competence and should know their limits.
  • Tailor each educational encounter to the individual learner; respect and build on prior knowledge. Especially this last aspect is often difficult due to the many different teachers.
  • Actively engage the learner. To my opinion this one is very important. It’s accomplished when residents take their training in their own hands and are involved in educating each other, the supervisors and even medical students.

Tip for the educational encounter

  • Diagnose an educational gap in collaboration with the learner. This tip is based on the knowledge that doctors and other adults learn better when they have control over the subject about which they are learning. We usually teach what we know best.

Tips for being an effective teacher

  • Provide inspiration. Motivation improves learning
  • Teach principles; provide structure and scaffolding. Instead of using closed questions in adult education teaching a principle and next looking for examples and test them with the learner are more effective method of teaching. Teachers can also help by providing structure and scaffolding to link new concepts to existing knowledge. This scaffolding depends on an understanding of the learner’s current knowledge and a judgment about what the learner is capable of achieving.
  • Stimulate self-directed learning. Tell the learner were they can find the solution to a problem instead of supplying it directly, this looking for answers improves learning. Prioritize the topics the learner should learn. It means helping learners construct answerable clinical questions and suggesting resources where the answers might be found.
  • Provide frequent, constructive feedback. Most students overestimate their knowledge, good constructive feedback can improve the learners performance.

After the educational encounter

  • Reflect on what you do and explore ways to improve it. Think about your teaching and consider ways to improve it. Don’t let those teaching courses pass by, don’t think you know it all, they can’t teach you anything new. Education and teaching is developing very rapidly, stay in touch with these developments and educate yourself.

In short, a very well written article with excellent suggestions, hope you can read the whole article.

Jeffree, R., & Clarke, R. (2010). Ten Tips for Teaching in the Theatre Tearoom: Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning World Journal of Surgery, 34 (11), 2518-2523 DOI: 10.1007/s00268-010-0719-6