When American educator Malcolm Shepherd Knowles (1913 -1997) developed his theories on adult learning (Knowles’ 4 Principles of Andragogy), he had absolutely no way of foreseeing how his theories might someday apply to modern-day simulation training.
According to Knowles, adult learners generally achieve a higher rate of knowledge retention when they
- are actively and personally engaged in the learning process
- have a clear understanding of the learning objectives
- can process what they learn relative to experience and cultural histories
- are intimately involved in a cooperative learning environment with constructive feedback
Adults who choose to pursue education through simulation derive substantial learning benefit when they
- receive experiential, hands-on training
- are pre-briefed on objectives and anticipated outcomes
- have the opportunity to learn from mistakes and evaluate their behaviors
- are debriefed through constructive feedback, expert guidance, and open dialogue
Clearly, adult learning theory (based on Knowles' concepts of how adults learn best) is very much attuned to the core principles behind healthcare simulation training.
However, before the modalities of simulation-based medical education can turn adult learners into skilled professionals, facilitators require the best resources, tools, and conceptual knowledge to help them in developing competent clinicians.