A Brief Review of Educational Theory
Behavior change is challenging. Changing physician behavior is particularly difficult. In designing an educational intervention for oncology fellows, we drew from the medical literature and educational theory. At the foundation of our program are three educational theories. As background to these teaching materials, we describe each theory briefly. The modules that follow are all informed by these theories.
Adult Learning Theory. There has been some debate over whether or not adult learning theory is a meaningful concept, or even a theory at all. The basic premise of adult learning theory is that activation is necessary for skill development and behavior change. It makes sense that all learners need to be activated, not just adults. Without engaging in this debate, we borrowed some key tenets from this model. An effective teaching session will:
- Create need
- Tailor teaching to learner goals
- Apply to practice
Social Learning Theory. Adopting new skills and behaviors requires that one step into a new role. Doing engrains a behavior more effectively than reading or hearing about it. For these reasons, we tend to emphasize role modeling and skill practice in our sessions. While most learners initially resist role plays, having a chance to practice new skills in a safe environment can be very useful [see the Challenges for suggestions for overcoming learner resistance to role playing].
Positive Psychology/Solution-Oriented Therapy. We borrowed an assumption from psychology that if you ask a person to do more of something they are already doing well, you are more likely to see behavior change and success than if you only point out the deficits. We like doing more of what we do well - it feels good and we can build confidence. By leveraging our strengths, we can actually do less of the behaviors that might be less positive. Focusing on strengths can also generate enthusiasm in the learners - an important element if you want them to continue working in these areas.