Learner characteristics often influence learner readiness to learn. There are many learner characteristics of employees working in a critical care work setting. Learner characteristics are often multi faceted and include personal, environmental and situational characteristics that may impact one’s ability to succeed in a learning environment. It is important that teaching strategies consider adult learner characteristics that may influence the learner’s ability in the critical care setting specifically as this environment presents unique challenges to learners.
Understanding of developmental stages is also vital to the learning process among critical care workers. This paper will discuss learner characteristics and learner readiness to learn in the critical care environment Overview of Learner Characteristics Central to adequate learning and teaching is an adequate understanding of the way some students learn and the characteristics associated with successful learners. Undoubtedly learners display various styles or characteristics of learning in the clinical care setting.
It is vital that instructors consider an approach to learning that accommodates the characteristics of the learner and the goals of the teacher in the clinical care setting in order to inspire the greatest success among students and the classroom alike (Anderson, Boud & Sampson, 1996). Common learner characteristics exuded by students in the clinical care setting include a tendency toward considering teachers as “experts and authorities” on all subject matter and the tendency to look forward to learning in a clinical setting or environment (Huttly, Sweet & Taylor, 24).
Learner characteristics common among clinical care students include the tendency toward preferring self-directed instructed methods and the tendency toward development of reflection and autonomy in the learner (Huttly, Sweet & Taylor, 2003). Burns (2002) suggests that understanding learner characteristics can help teachers “employ more cognitive and humanist approaches” to teaching (p. 142).
Further the author asserts that it is important that teachers consider individual behaviors and the influence learning styles have on the individual’s potential to succeed, discover, understand and problem solve in the classroom. This approach is referred to as the cognitive approach to learning, and encourages educators to help facilitate individual’s learning potentials by promoting “self direction and valuing personal experience” in the classroom in an environment that is supportive of “teacher interaction” (Burns, 142).
Learner characteristics or attributes may include positive self-esteem or self-concepts that help students, particularly adult students, remain “positively motivated” in the classroom (Burns, 207). In this type of environment students provide their own validation for learning and view learning as an internal phenomena where they retain a certain degree of autonomy and “locus of control” (Burns, 207). This compared with the environment where students are more reliant on the teacher for direction and authority.
This model, where the teacher acts as a lecturer and directs student interactions is far more common in the health care setting, but not necessarily valuable or supportive of learning particularly in the clinical care environment because it does not support the team model of learning, growth and development (Burns, 2002). Development of self-reliant behaviors is important for stimulating positive self-concept among adult learners and encouraging ample communication among adult learners (Burns, 2002).
It is important therefore that the degree of autonomy and self-direction students experience is considered as a learning characteristic in a clinical health care environment. Learner characteristics common to individuals in a clinical care setting and adult environment include the ability to actively participate in learning, develop critical methods for interpreting reality and developing recognition of one’s ability to change their reality and environment (Burns, 2002).
Learner characteristics also include the tendency to look for opportunities to “develop one’s potential” and discover new avenues for expressing one’s abilities in the learning environment (Burns, 2002). While many learner characteristics are generalized including these, it is important to remember that individual learning styles are also very prevalent and important in the educational setting, particularly in an adult learning environment. Adults prefer working in a learning environment that provides an empowering learning situation.
Empowered learners generally translate into competent and empowered clinical and critical care learners, helping others including other staff members, employees and patients develop their own sense of identity and empowerment through adaptive learning (Burns, 2002). An adult’s readiness to learn is often contingent on the amount of previous “practice and learning” or the amount of stored knowledge they have regarding given concepts or phase sequences (Burns, 260). An adult’s readiness to learn is also based on their ability and interest for assimilating new information into their current context.
Typically readiness to learn is also contingent on the learners “intrinsic motivation” which is more likely to produce “permanent learning” because learning becomes more natural or instinctive to the learner (Burns, 260). Further it is important that in the adult learning environment and in critical care settings learners are provided with positive reinforcement for their efforts at learning, which theorists suggest is more effective than ignoring behavior or criticizing and punishing negative behavior (Burns, 2002).
Readiness to learn may also be influenced by various factors including stress, time pressure, the context in which learning occurs, the level of interpersonal relationships the learner has with teachers and even fatigue or health pressures (Burns, 2002). Considering such conditions teaching strategies must target individual learning styles and contexts, working to help improve self-esteem among students and help facilitate more positive experiences within the learning environment (Burns, 2002).
Developmental stage is also vital to the learning process for adult learners and learners in critical care work settings. Developmental stage approaches suggest that adult learners exude certain learning characteristics that are similar or analogous to their life experiences (Cross, 1981). Using this model one must consider the learner’s personal attributes or characteristics as well as situational characteristics that may impair or facilitate learning (Cross, 1981). These characteristics may include a person’s physical or life developmental stages and personal characteristics.
Biological characteristics including one’s age may impact ones ability for example to learn effectively in the classroom; likewise developmental stages involving situational characteristics may include one’s ability to work varying schedules in various environments (Cross, 1981). The medical employee working in a critical care environment will face many situational characteristics one must consider when developing a learning program targeted to this population in particular. These may include increased stressors and the need for programs that adapt to the experience level of varying workers in this diverse and often fast paced environment.
In this case it may be beneficial for an educational program to focus on the learner’s personal and experiential characteristics to develop an appropriate learning model. Bibliography : Anderson, G. , Boud, D. & Sampson, J. (1996). Learning Contract: A practical guide. London: Kogan Page. Burns, R. (2002). The adult learner at work: The challenges of lifelong education in the new millennium. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as Learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Huttly, S. , Sweet, J. & Taylor, I. (2003). Effective learning & teaching in medical, dental and veterinary education. Sterling: Kogan Page.