Thursday, January 22, 2015

Andragogy: The Heart of CE

At mdBriefCase, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the review and development of multiple CE projects. In doing so, my experience here has continued to hone a passion for the topic of my post today: andragogy. Not familiar? It’s the very magic of CE: the art and science of adult education.

To become an effective educator (e.g., CE developer, pharmacist, preceptor, etc.), I’ve learned that you need to appreciate and integrate the principles of andragogy into your program’s design. Essentially, you need to know how adults learn best. How? Adult education guru, Malcolm Knowles, laid out the following principles of adult learners:

1. Adults are internally motivated. 

As we mature, our motivation to learn becomes intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Whereas children are receptive to the delivery of information and ideas that are imposed upon them, adults need to know why they are learning something.

Tip! Convince your learners why the subject of the learning experience is important before you start dumping information on them.

2. Adults are goal-oriented. 

Adults undertake learning to achieve a specific personal or social goal (e.g., improving a career-related skill). Therefore adults learn more effectively when the learning experience is outcome-based.

Tip! Organize your program around “SMART” learning objectives.

3. Adults are relevancy-oriented.

How often have you taken a course and asked, “How is this relevant?” (i.e., when I had to take university calculus to get into pharmacy). Adults need to know what they are learning is relevant to achieving their goals.

Tip! Ask learners to reflect on their experience and ask how they can apply what they’ve learned to help achieve their goals.

4. Adults bring life experiences to learning experiences. 

Adults have accumulated a lifetime’s worth of experience that colours how they receive and respond to information. Some of these past experiences are capable of helping or hindering the learning process.

Tip! Ask learners to share their previous experiences in order to help identify gaps in knowledge or address barriers to the reception of information.

5. Adults need to be shown respect. 

Adults appreciate when a level of equality is established between the teacher and learner. Adults also like to have their wealth of knowledge acknowledged.

Tip! Use respectful language that treats your learners as equals in both experience and knowledge.

By adopting the role of an educator in my final year of pharmacy, I've found these principles to be invaluable for connecting to adult learners. Speaking as a mature student, I've also found that they increase your self-awareness and effectiveness as learner.

In conclusion, I hope that everyone at mdBriefCase, providers and participants alike, appreciates the awesomeness of what they do on a daily basis and the value that continuing education brings to their lives. I am truly grateful to have been a part of that experience.

Looking forward to the remainder of my rotation!


  1. QOTFC [Internet]. Adult learning theories and principles. 2007 [cited 2015 Jan 16]. Available from:
  2. Pappas C. Adult learning theory – androgogy – of Malcolm Knowles. eLearning Industry [Internet]. 2013 May [cited 2015 Jan 15]. Available from: