Adult self-directed learning: Setting your own agenda

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Journal Article

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Hays, R. (2012). Adult self-directed learning: Setting your own agenda. InnovAit: Education and Inspiration for General Practice, 2(7), 434-438

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Medical education often uses terms like ‘adult learning’ and ‘self-directed learning’. We are told that we trained to be self-directed and adult learners from the commencement of basic medical education and that this is important if we are to remain competent over a career that may span 30–40 years. However, the ability to be an adult or self-directed learner is difficult to measure and it is therefore difficult to determine whether these processes (or are they skills?) are either innate or learnable. There is a risk that the terms are seen simply as impractical educational jargon, and so education organizations feel safest when they provide a tightly structured curriculum and assess learners through examinations based on that curriculum. The Postgraduate Medical Education Training Board has required this for all postgraduate specialties, including general practice. The obvious question then is ‘what happens next?’ as there is no such thing as a curriculum for lifelong competence. There is therefore a need for GP registrars, as part of the new RCGP curriculum, to develop the skills to be lifelong learners for two reasons. The first is to facilitate maintaining currency of practice and the second is to role model that for other learners. This paper aims to explain in simple terms how, in the context of being on the pathway to becoming an independent general practitioner, the theory can be applied to enhance adult and self-directed learning in GP registrars.

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