We encourage you to consider andragogy, the word of the week, potentially one that isn’t readily part of our everyday vernacular but one that we should embrace. As educators, andragogy is a concept we encounter (though potentially unknowingly) every day.

Andragogy is adult learning theory, and understanding some of its rudimentary concepts can improve how we teach, how we lead, and even how we learn. In the early 1980s, Malcolm Knowles, the renowned father of andragogy, developed six characteristics of adult learners.1

At FORCE, we have studied Knowles’ groundbreaking observations about adult learning, and we continuously apply, tweak, and implement his theories throughout the content that we craft for our clients and partners. This practice is especially visible in one of our latest projects, a roundtable discussion series designed to inform healthcare professionals (HCPs) in the endocrinology field that specific treatment should be used earlier in their treatment algorithms.

Malcolm Knowles’ Six Adult Learning Principles2

  1. Adult Learning is Self-directed/Autonomous

Adults make their own choices regarding their learning objectives, and they respond well to a mentor who guides their learning goals.

When we first began planning the client presentation, we leveraged this learning principle by inviting HCPs who are actively interested in the topic, and we enlisted talented and respected mediators to run each discussion. We then had an audience composed of adults who wanted to learn about the topic and a mentor who would guide their conversation in the right direction.

  1. Adult Learning Utilizes Knowledge and Life Experiences

An adept educator knows that learners must connect their past experiences with the current training activity in order to fully retain knowledge.

Endocrinologists are typically very data driven, so we ensured that our program radiated an academic feel to connect to their learning history. By creating a data-centered environment, we successfully linked the current training to the endocrinologists’ existing knowledge and aided information retention.

  1. Adult Learning is Goal-oriented

Like many adults, endocrinologists are goal-oriented.

To take advantage of this trait, we emphasized what attendees would gain by attending the discussion and outlined what they would learn. We set goals and objectives early and, throughout the conversation, encouraged attendees to reach those goals.

  1. Adult Learning is Relevancy-oriented

This program wasn’t grad school. It wasn’t mandatory.

HCPs could have just as easily rejected our invitation as accepted it. We ensured that the professionals invited were deeply involved in their field and would leave the discussion with valuable and applicable information.

  1. Adult Learning Highlights Practicality

 It was paramount that our appointed educators identified the appropriate ways to convert the abstract information they were teaching into practical activities. They were given strict instructions to present the information in a manner that made it clear how learning more about the highlighted product would affect endocrinologists’ treatment algorithms.

  1. Adult Learning Encourages Collaboration

 Adult learners thrive in collaborative relationships with both educators and peers.

This is a primary reason the roundtable discussion format was so vital to this educational initiative. It encouraged attendees to form relationships with their educators and to engage in applicable real-world discussions. We acknowledged attendees’ intellectual contributions throughout the event. In return, they were willing to put forth their best effort and gather as much knowledge as was provided.

The Results Speak for Themselves

The roundtable discussion was a resounding success. Our client was thrilled with the feedback and results: “I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done with the creation, training, and execution of the roundtables.” By utilizing our knowledge of Knowles’ education characteristics, we designed a program that surpassed our clients’ expectations and ensured that all HCPs in attendance not only learned but retained the information provided.

Attendees left the event with more accurate data regarding the effectiveness of the product and strong data to support a revised treatment algorithm to improve patient outcomes.

We led with science, researched the most effective adult education techniques available, and produced an effective and entertaining experience. We would love to hear about your experiences applying these theories to your training techniques. Drop us a line!

  1. eLearning Industry Web site. The adult learning theory – andragogy – of Malcom Knowles. https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles. Accessed October 13, 2016.
  2. eLearning Industry Web site. 6 top facts about adult learning theory. https://elearningindustry.com/6-top-facts-about-adult-learning-theory-every-educator-should-know. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Related Post: Knowledge is Powerful Medicine