Adults tend to learn best when allowed to take responsibility for the learning process. The educators’ role is to facilitate self-directed learning rather than teach. For student health professionals, the ability to drive one’s own learning is an essential skill to learn to manage the varied and unpredictable clinical scenarios that are encountered throughout their careers. 

Tips to foster self-directed learning include: 

  • The clinician and student collaboratively identify opportunities and resources to support the achievement of learning objectives.
  • Use workplace opportunities to engage in self-directed learning (e.g. Select a client/patient. Dedicate time for the student to independently plan the assessment and intervention options.  Discuss the plan together before application.  The student will be expected to explain the rationale behind decisions and the pros and cons of alternate possibilities.  The educator will question the student to ensure a deep understanding of the issues.).
  • Encourage engagement in ongoing reflection and self-evaluation (e.g. dedicate time at the end of the morning/day to reflect on one or two specific cases linked to the learning objectives).  Key elements of reflection will be covered later.

(Health Education & Training Institute, 2012, p 21).

Hands on and interactive approaches to learning activities are most attractive to adult learners. Learning is most effective if it builds on past understanding. If possible, acknowledge and value the past experiences of the adult learner and look for opportunities to apply this experience to their current learning (Health Education & Training Institute, 2012).


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