Connect with us

Resource Center

What are the Natural Learning Actions of the ‘adult learner’? – ArcheMedX Blog

Welcome back to the ArcheMedX blog.

Perhaps the primary theme we will explore within the pages of the ArcheMedX blog is that “the cognitive process of learning is built upon a series of natural learning actions.” If applied properly, these learning actions allow an adult learner to extract critical insights – behavior changing insights – from the new and emerging information that is available to inform clinical practice. And, while the idea of understanding and supporting the natural learning actions of clinician learners is not entirely new, it has never before been so clearly defined.

To understand what we mean it might help to consider how you personally react to new information as it is being presented to you. Put yourself in the seat of a learner: What do you do as you listen to a lecture or a panel discussion or engage with educational content of any kind?

Chances are you engage in one of four natural learning actions: 1) you take a note, 2) you attempt to craft reminders which will help you reflect over time, 3) you immediately search for related information to provide greater context, or 4) you reach out to a trusted colleague to understand his or her own understanding and practice.

Natural Learning Actions Model

Over the course of hundreds of interviews I have conducted over the past year, I have come to learn that up to 85% of adult learners self-identify with these actions, and this is why I have come to call them the ‘natural learning actions.’ What’s more, of the ~15% of learners who claim not to take notes, for example, upon deeper investigation it appears that these non-note-takers have simply become so frustrated with their own learning actions that they have given up. Instead of taking notes, setting reminders, or conducting related searches, they simply look for the one or two things on which they can take immediate action and they admit to ignoring 90-95% of the lessons they could have learned – they readily acknowledge that they, “…can only manage so much information at one time.”

Despite the fact that I have met very few adult learners who cannot relate to these natural learning actions, it does not mean that effectively leveraging the learning actions is the norm – in fact, this is far from the case. From our interviews it appears that while the vast majority can relate, very few clinician learners have refined or evolved these learning actions to the point where learning is simplified. The reality is that there is very little awareness of these actions and how they either support or undermine learning.

This is the dual edge sword of any natural action: the actions become intimately entwined in what it means to learn, but they are consistently overlooked and underappreciated by learners and researchers alike. One would think that actions found to be so critical to learning would be well-studied and well-supported, but just the opposite is true. Just because a learner has been taking notes, setting reminders, conducting related searches, or even engaging in social learning since high school or college; this does not mean that they have refined these actions.

So what is our takeaway message? The reality is that there are few if any supportive devices to ensure that learners may optimize these very natural actions. Said another way, no one to date has engineered a learning architecture that ensures that the natural learning actions can be efficiently, effectively, even habitually leveraged to accelerate learning and to bend the forgetting curve.

Until now.

We are looking forward to sharing our vision within the pages of this blog. In the meantime, think about how you learn, what learning actions you take – you might be surprised by how logical this learning action framework is and you might surprised by what happens when you begin to evolve your own personal learning architecture.

All the best,


Written by

Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

9 Responses to “What are the Natural Learning Actions of the ‘adult learner’? – ArcheMedX Blog”

[…] spent the better part of the past year exploring what has become my Natural Learning Actions model, I am still energized by the reactions that the model continues to elicit. When speaking with […]

[…] ArcheMedX launched this past January ahead of the 38th Annual Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions Conference, with a mission to simplify medical education and assessment. By organizing and connecting the natural learning actions of clinicians through either self-directed or collaborative learning platforms, ArcheMedX simplifies lifelong learning and streamlines the process of educational planning, assessment, and support. (for more on the natural learning actions model, check out: […]

[…] ArcheMedX launched this past January ahead of the 38th Annual Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions Conference, with a mission to simplify medical education and assessment. By organizing and connecting the natural learning actions of clinicians through either self-directed orcollaborative learning platforms, ArcheMedX simplifies lifelong learning and streamlines the process ofeducational planning, assessment, and support. (for more on the natural learning actions model, check out: […]

[…] about medical education and practice improvement.  And the more time I have spent studying the natural learning actions and engineering the ArcheMedx learning architecture model, the more it seems that Dr. Fogg’s […]

[…] learners, while perhaps easier to design, fails to address one of the most critical of the four natural learning actions…and without some semblance of a social learning opportunity, the impact of the education is […]

[…] A few weeks back I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lawrence Sherman as part of the ReachMD lifelong learning series produced in conjunction with the Alliance for CEhp.  The interview is airing all this week on ReachMD (channel 167 on SiriusXM) and the podcast is available for download on (after registering). The interview touches on a number of topics related to how clinicians form questions in practice, how they structure their learning opportunities, and (of course) the natural learning actions model. […]

[…] into clinician lifelong learning – the same research that lead to what we have come to call the Natural Learning Actions – we began to ask clinicians how efficiently and effectively they leveraged each of these […]

[…] of the most common challenges we get from partners who are integrating our natural learning actions research into their educational plans is whether the model is applicable (or necessary) in case-based or […]

[…] was also struck by how this research blends perfectly with the Natural Learning Actions research we have been […]

Leave a Comment