OCT 19, 2012
This article in the July issue of Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology provides a review of adult learning theory and its implications for vocational training in ophthalmology. The authors say that in order to provide the optimal learning environment to meet the desired educational outcomes, ophthalmology vocational training programs need to incorporate advances in educational research and reflect changes in generational thinking and learning styles.
They introduce some of the important concepts of adult educational theory and explain how they connect to four strategic areas in the development and implementation of vocational training programs: determining the learning needs of trainees, the educational methods that best address these needs, the assessment methods that best test the acquisition of the desired learning outcomes, and the needs of supervisors and teachers.
They note that training programs have built into them concepts and assumptions that set the priorities for what and how learning is achieved. How trainees come to see themselves and, as a consequence, understand and engage in their professional practice is fundamental to becoming an expert.
The practice of ophthalmology, similar to other clinical disciplines, is changing quickly because of the rapid pace of growth in scientific knowledge and increased subspecialization. The authors say that the scope of ophthalmology to be learned and the spectrum of career choices to make are increasing, and it is important that the curriculum keeps pace with the rapid changes in ophthalmic knowledge. However, they say that it is equally important that training programs reflect changes in generational thinking and differences in learning styles.
They conclude that an understanding and appropriate application of adult learning theory will facilitate continued improvement in the teaching and educational outcomes of ophthalmic trainees.