Why Won't They Learn? Part 2

Customers, clients, co-workers, pupils. Call them what you will, you will improve your results as an educator if you find out why they are in your class.

This is the second in a 3-part series by EMS educator Rommie Duckworth. Rommie is a featured speaker at EMS World Expo in Las Vegas, NV, August 31-September 2, and will speak on this topic on August 31 and on managing the first five minutes of an MCI on September 1.

Customers, clients, co-workers, pupils. Call them what you will, the next step in improving your results is finding out why they are in your class. This can often be accomplished early on, during student introductions. Simply asking students to say why they are attending is an easy way to give you great insight.

Of course, there are times, such as during short-form classes, when students may not explain why they are attending. Even then, it often isn't as hard as you might think to find the answer if you know what to look for. Stephen Lieb describes how adults seek out education for one of six basic reasons.1

1. Friendship. One of the reasons adults like to learn is because of the social relationships that can be formed or reinforced during classes. Remarkably, this applies in both short- and long-format classes, as well as online education.

2. Bosses. Adults may be prompted to complete an education program because of outside expectations, such as job or recertification require-ments.

3. Good. By nature of the personalities interested in emergency services, many students want to learn in order to better serve their communities.

4. Me. Personal advancement is a great stimulus for education. You may find students are in your class for personal or professional development, whether the rewards are direct or indirect.

5. Boredom. Some students take classes to relieve boredom and to provide an escape from other work or home responsibilities. While this may not be as true for experienced emergency responders (don't we get enough excitement already?), this is a common reason for students new to EMS.

6. Curiosity. Finally, some students seek education simply for the sake of learning. They seek knowledge to satisfy their own curiosity. This is often closely tied to the Good, Me and Boredom motivators.

A Great Educator PREPS

Once you've considered the core concepts of adult education and learned the reasons your students are in class, it's time to prepare for teaching a specific lesson. Here again, Knowles identified four elements critical to adult learning: motivation, reinforcement, retention and transference.1,2 These describe how educators must get students excited about the content they are learning, encourage proper use of that content, and ensure students come in contact with the content enough so that it stays with them and they may ultimately apply their knowledge in a variety of real-world circumstances to help people.

While it may seem difficult to apply this to both long-format programs, like a paramedic course, and short-format classes like a one-off CME lecture, one technique that has been used with success in EMS education is the PREPS mnemonic. Using this mnemonic, instructors can focus on their own relationship with the course materials in order to best prepare to share this material with students.


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