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Recent Reactions to the “Natural Learning Action” Model

“This is game changing…”

“…you are right, these actions are so natural we hardly ever think about them…”

“If I had understood these learning actions when I was in practice, everything about my lifelong learning would have been more efficient!”

Having 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 clinicians they quickly appreciate how their lifelong learning process could be made much more effective and efficient. When speaking with faculty members they immediately understand how their time and energy could be made much more productive. And, having spent the past four days engaging with nearly 1400 CE professionals gathered in San Francisco; it appears that those who plan, develop, and distribute the continuing education that informs the US healthcare system are starving for a new vision for learning and assessment too.

Natural Learning Actions Model

In more than two dozen conversations had with medical educators representing academic medical centers, small state societies, large medical associations, medical education companies, and even government organizations and payors, there was universal appreciation that the traditional model of developing and delivering content without consideration of these natural learning actions will rarely lead to significant learning or behavior change – that this community may embrace this model is a promising breath of fresh air, but much, much more work remains to be done. The fact is the community of planners and faculty and learners number into the hundreds of thousands and for the fullest impact of the Natural Learning Actions model to be felt, we must ensure the model is more broadly recognized and understood.

Over the coming weeks we will be announcing a research and publication plan to develop a set of peer-reviewed, evidence-based resources that will serve as the foundational knowledge base for medical educators. I am thrilled to know that several of our partners are equally committed to this research and publication plan. Stay tuned for more on these efforts, but in short here is our collective vision: There is a critical need to review and summarize the parallel sciences of note-taking, reminder systems, search, and social learning such that learners, faculty, and planners can each fully leverage this knowledge base within their educational practices and lifelong learning.

As much as I love to introduce and explain the Natural Learning Actions model to peers and colleagues, the reactions and experiences that I collected while in San Francisco over the past 4 days suggest a broader communication plan is critical to help this community quickly transform their programs.

One final thought, if you are interested in participating in the research and publication plans please send me an email ([email protected]) – the more minds (and perspectives)  we have working on these efforts the greater the impact will be!

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.

One Response to “Recent Reactions to the “Natural Learning Action” Model”

By Greselda - 4 February 2013

Good article on medical note taking using technology to enhance utility and utilization.
Ciccarone D et al. A technology-enhanced medical note-writing workshop. Medical Education 2012; 46(11);1121-1122.

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