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How Adults Learn

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Malaysian Family Physician 2007; Volume 2, Number 1 ©Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia Online version:

Medical Education
Notes for the Primary Care Teachers HOW DO ADULTS LEARN?
SK Kwa FRACGP, FAFPM International Medical University, Seremban, Malaysia Address for correspondence: Assoc Prof Kwa Siew Kim, International Medical University, Jalan Rasah, 70300 Seremban, Malaysia. Tel: 06-7677798, Fax: 06-7677709, Email:

Kwa SK. How do adults learn? Malaysian Family Physician. 2007;2(1):25-26 Introduction It is the professional responsibility of Family Doctors to train the next generation of physicians. This can be daunting to novice mentors because until recently, learning how to teach has never been in the medical curriculum. The problem is made more challenging when the learners are adults. In order to be an effective mentor, you will have to thoroughly understand your learners. This paper aims to provide information on the special characteristics of adult learners and its implications on teaching-learning.1 The term “andragogy” was first introduced by the educationist Malcolm Knowles who defined it as the “art and science of helping adults to learn”. Box 1 lists the special characteristics on which the principles of adult learning are based.2 Box 1: Special characteristics of adult learners o o o o o o o Adults are independent and self-directed Adults are self-motivated Adults already possess vast experiential learning Adults want learning that can be immediately applied to their daily job requirements Adults prefer relevant problem-based specific topics to broad subject-based general topics Adults prefer interactive learning Adults want conducive learning environment knowledge and skills gaps and assist in monitoring progress of their continuing professional development. Adult learners, with the guidance of the mentor, can prepare a curriculum based on their own learning needs.


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