The Relationship Between Learning and Teaching
Published: 19 September 2017
Published: 19 September 2017
I was particularly drawn to Knowles and his theory of andragogy because my nursing education began when I was 17-years old. I noticed that as I matured, my learning style and habits changed dramatically.
Knowles defined the process of adult learning as andragogy, and it is based upon five assumptions:
In 2009 when I entered my doctoral program, I was convinced that I would be ahead of the curve because of my familiarity with adult learning; until I logged on to my first course.
The course was titled 'Scholarly Learning in Doctoral Education'. The first assignment required that all learners log on to, and complete, The VARK Questionnaire.
The questionnaire's purpose is to assess how an adult best learns. I must admit, I experienced an immediate bias at the professor’s requirement that students take the time to complete a generic, publicly available survey. I was greatly mistaken!
Upon completion of the survey I received my scores, which indicated that I am primarily a kinesthetic learner. Although I knew a great deal about adult learning theory, I had not even considered that learning style can greatly impact a person’s ability to learn or assimilate new information.
Throughout the following week, my colleagues and I shared our scores within the course discussion forum and the Professor reminded each of us that competence in theory does not guarantee that you will be a successful educator. Nurse educators must adapt their teaching methods to meet every learner’s needs.
Upon reviewing my own scores from the VARK it was clear to me that although I have some visual learning strength, my auditory learning abilities are almost nonexistent! It suddenly occurred to me that I have engaged in teaching patients, students, and family members for almost four decades and never had I asked them how they best learn! I wondered if many of my patients were aware of their learning style. This was yet another 'light-bulb' moment in my nursing career!
Since that time, I have assigned a learner survey to every group of nurses at the start of every seminar that I host. It is vitally important that our patients, families and colleagues feel empowered by opportunities for learning, and not defeated. For example, a newly diagnosed patient with type II diabetes who has a kinesthetic learner profile should have a glucometer to hold and practice with during every learning session, in order to assimilate the information.
So, I challenge you: are you aware of how you best learn? What are your strengths and how could a nurse educator capitalise on your strengths as a learner? I encourage you to bring this issue to your staff meetings and complete your own learner inventory. There are a multitude of tools available online.
The next step in your learning will be to select, along with your colleagues, a health problem that is common to the patient population that you serve (diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or obesity). Divide your staff into four groups: visual, aural, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.
Each group should develop a teaching program on your chosen topic using the learning style that you have selected. Share, your strategies with each other and then learn and celebrate your success as a team for your innovation and dedication to teaching and learning!