Center for Academic Excellence Workshop
Tom G. Smith, Ph.D, of the Center for Academic Excellence and Writing Center, presented a workshop on the principles of adult learning to medical educators from across the south. The workshop was part of the annual American Association of Medical Colleges, Southern Group on Educational Affairs Conference held this year in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 4.
Tom’s workshop focused on highlighting the basic differences between models for educating children (pedagogy) and those for educating adults (andragogy). Most teachers and schools have based their education on the model of pedagogy. This model tends to centralize authority in a lecturing teacher, envisions students as recipients of knowledge, and sets aside large blocks of time for learning.
However, given the age and life experience of most students at MUSC and other health care institutions, the andragogical model is a more appropriate way to structure educational activities. In this structure, teachers give authority to learners by presenting problems rather than answers; students then set the agenda and determine how to tackle those problems. Students aren’t so much recipients of knowledge as they are active investigators. Moreover, the time adults have to devote to learning is usually much more brief and intermittent; an andragogical classroom mirrors this use of time, with brief activities interspersed between discussions of key concepts.
The session Tom presented employed these andragogical learning principles --the hour and a half session was interactive and relied on the learners to establish questions they wanted answered about the differences between learning for adults and for children. Their main interest was on how to improve health care education, so Tom then asked them to divide into groups based on their particular area of teaching—classroom, clinical rotation, lab, etc. The groups then developed concrete proposals for each arena at their own schools to improve education based on the andragogical model.
The attendees from throughout the Southeast actively and enthusiastically participated in the session; they even stayed after for an additional 15 minutes to continue their conversations about the challenges of improving education. They were particularly intrigued by the presence on MUSC’s campus of a resource like the Center for Academic Excellence, one that serves students from all healthcare professions and focuses on empowering students to improve their learning.