A theory or conceptual model can be described as a recognized statement comprised of a set of ideas consistently proven by evidence. As Registered Nurses (RN), we frequently use theory to learn and shape our practice, as well as in teaching our patients. In the hospital that I am employed by, it is a rare occasion that we treat children, therefore the teaching of our patients and staff must be focused on the learner as an adult. Since its introduction in the late 60’s by Malcolm Knowles, andragogy has been described in many ways ranging from a theory of adult learning, to a model of good practice principles, to an instructional framework to facilitate adult learning (Carpenter-Aeby & Aeby, 2013).
Andragogy can help adult learners acquire new knowledge in a way that makes sense to the learner and their unique learning strategy (Carpenter-Aeby & Aeby). In a 1980 journal column, Knowles summarized the five assumptions encompassing his model of Andragogy.
It is a natural process of the process of maturation for an individual to want or need to move from dependency toward increasing self-responsibility and self-directedness.
As individuals grow and develop, they accumulate an increasing reservoir of experience that is a rich resource for learning.
People become ready to learn whatever they need to know or be able to do in order to cope more effectively with changing life tasks and life problems.
Adults tend to be problem-centered or task-centered in their orientation to learning; they learn better, therefore, when learning experiences are organized around life situations than when they are presented in terms of subject units.
Although adults respond to externally induced motivators, the more potent motivations to learn come from internal needs to grow and develop toward self-fulfillment (Knowles, 1980).
Andragogy in Nursing Practice
The hospital where I practice is an urban, level two trauma facility with three separate surgical departments. We perform an array of surgeries ranging anywhere from minimally invasive outpatient procedures to open cardiothoracic procedures. In the pre-operative and recovery settings, we often get very limited time with our patients, creating a need for consistently reliable teaching methods and a solid understanding of adult learning. In my practice, I utilize the knowledge I have learned from Knowles’ theory with each case. I recognize that our adult population comes with their own experiences and history to provide a foundation of learning. They need, and are more willing to, take part in their self-centered learning because it applies directly to them at their specific time of need. At my current hospital, we provide a multitude of classes preparing our patients for total joint replacements as well as for bariatric surgery and open-heart procedures. We also provide frequent support groups, websites, and written literature all focused on specific patient centered problems and offered at various times for patient convenience. In a study by Muslow, Feeley and Tierney it is illustrated that multimedia education is effective in patients undergoing surgical treatment by showing a significant improvement in patient recall as assessed by questionnaire and that it has the advantage of delivering large amounts of information that can be reviewed and re-reviewed (2012).
Furthermore, the information provided by Knowles is also adaptable to nursing staff education. My hospital provides a website full of a variety of continuing education articles and tests for us to choose from and complete during down time or during non-working hours. We are also required to display competencies throughout the year at no specified time so