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2016 Taught Us That Learning IS A Behavior

Of all the things we learned in 2016, one lesson should forever change the way education is designed and delivered: Learning is a Behavior.

For as long as educators have been designing education for healthcare professionals (really all adult learners), the idea has been that if the content is effectively aligned with educational needs then learners will learn..and, if you follow some general principles, then that learning can be optimized.

Were it only that easy!

Our learners are overwhelmed: time is short, life gets in the way, they are distracted…yet we soldier on clinging to this idea that if content is aligned then the ‘self-directed’ and ‘autonomous’ nature of adults learners will bolster learning.

overwhelmed-learners

 

This assumption has haunted me for years – its why I conducted the Learning Actions research and its why I started ArcheMedX – our vision and model is grounded in the notion that learning isn’t necessarily all that easy and that the ‘actions’ critical to learning need to be supported and nudged.

Like any other complex behavior, we humans sometimes get it right. But more often than not, when push comes to shove, we will struggle to make the decisions and take the actions that are in our best interest. We overlook our limitations and we overstate our discipline. As a result, we make bad choices when it comes to eating, exercising, shopping, relationships.  Perhaps nothing better defines our humanity than our irrationality!

My guess is that nothing in that prior paragraph comes as a surprise.. What is new is the notion that these same challenges often undermine how we learn. (Let that soak in for a second….)

Understanding and accepting this reality is game-changing. I’d go so far as to say that the ‘Learning is a Behavior’ idea provides us great promise – because the same solutions that have been demonstrated to improve and support our general behavioral decisions are the same solutions that we now know improve and support our learning behaviors.

With each Partner, each Initiative, each Activity, and each designed learning moment crafted within the ArcheViewer we have demonstrated the impact of nudging better learning behaviors.

In the end, accepting that learning is a behavior is uniquely empowering – we, as the designers of the learning experience, now have critical control over the learning actions that are taken.

Thank you for helping us prove this point!

 

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Brian S McGowan, PhD

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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.

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