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StudentAdult Learners

Explore the following three topics in this section:

Adult Learners Are...

Participants will be able to:
• Adapt instruction to meet the needs of adult learners.

Adult learners come to the classroom with a different set of needs and expectations than children and young adults.

Adults learners are...

  1. Questioners. Adults learn based on need. They want to know that what they are doing matters (a) in real-life and (b) on the test. They want to see relevance.
    Example: Introduce a problem-based activity with a real-world example and/or test item.
    Point out that you need to know the vocabulary of the human body in order to describe patient symptoms.

  2. Self-Directed. Adults need to be in control of the learning process. They want to make decisions about their learning. Whenever possible, instructors should be facilitators rather than information givers.
    Example: When possible, provide choice and opportunities to discover content.
    Rather than lecturing about drug interactions, provide students with a fact sheet and a set of empty bottles and other items to discuss. Then, check and comment on their work.

  3. Experience Rich. Adults come to class with a wide range and depth of experiences. Use this knowledge as a frame of reference for new learning, while remembering that students may come with misconceptions.
    Example: Ask for students to share experiences and concerns while looking for predispositions and bias.
    Discuss student experiences and thoughts about child abuse before describing the signs. Looks for preconceived ideas about this topic.

  4. Real-World Focused. Lecturing doesn’t equal learning. Students need to be active to learn. They want to see the connection to real-world situations. They need to build new experiences while constructing knowledge.
    Example: Build authentic activities, questions, and discussions into lectures.
    Rather than discussing abstract examples, focus on a specific situation such as a tractor tipping over on a field worker.

  5. Task-oriented. They are life-centered and want to apply information immediately to real-life. Don’t separate theory and practice. Instead, build bridges with problem-based learning.
    Example: Show a real-world application for each chunk of content or concept.
    Introduce the signs of stroke using the FAST method and match it with a role-playing activity. Use "Act FAST" for recognizing signs of stroke.

  6. Internally Motivated. Increased satisfaction, self-esteem and quality of life are more important that money and promotions. Show students why course content matters.
    Example: Provide praise, opportunities for success and real-world connections.
    When introducing a strategy, talk about how many lives are saved by EMT intervention such as the YouTube EMT Saves Lives.

try itTry It! Adapt Instruction for Adult Learners
Read the three instructional situations below.
Pick ONE of the six characteristics of adult learners above. Describe how you would adapt instruction to address that characteristic.
Situation 1: The instructor uses PowerPoint bullets to list facts about concussions then gives students a handout to read.
Situation 2: The instructor talks about how to use a manually triggered ventilation device then gives a multiple choice quiz.
Situation 3: The instructor writes the types of consent on the chalkboard, defines each type of consent, and tells students to take notes.

Adult Learning Styles

Participants will be able to:
• Apply adult learning styles to the creation of classroom activities.

womanSince the 1970s, educators have used learning styles as a way to address the individual needs of students. Most students have preferences for how they learn, however recent research questions whether tailoring instruction to individual learners is effective.

The bottom line
Cast a wide net of options to engage learners with different preferences and learning styles.

Let's explore FOUR areas where learning styles can be applied to developing effective, efficient, and appealing instructional materials that reach all of your learners (Adapted from Felder and Silverman).

1 - Preferences
What type of information does the student preferentially perceive? Which do students like best? Match how students perceive with corresponding content.

Example. Provide a balance of concrete information and abstract concepts. Provide practical examples of theories. Balance practical problem-solving methods with fundamental understanding. Provide explicit illustrations of theoretical patterns (inference, patterns, generalizations). Provide opportunities for observation, experimentation, and attention to detail.

Activity. Provide examples, describe the theory, show the consequences, present applications.

2 - Perceiving
Through what sensory modality is information most effectively perceived? What’s the best way to present content? Match how students receive information with types of presentations.

Example. Use pictures, graphics, sketching (before, during, and after). Show video segments. Use live demonstrations. Incorporate and movement into lessons.

Visual-Verbal-Kinesthetic Activity. Ask students to compare two photographs (visual) and discuss (verbal) their findings. Then ask them to re-create (kinesthetic) one of the scenes.

3 - Processing
How does the student prefer to process information? How do students like to work with content? Match how students process with student participation activities.

Example: Alternate lecture with pauses for thought and opportunities for problem-solving activities. Materials should present both practical problems and fundamental understandings that bridge theory and practice.

Questioning Activity. Seated in small groups. Pose an open-ended question and give time to read and think. Then, ask students to come up with collective answers to questions. Provide 30 seconds to five minutes. Discuss alternative solutions and answers. Or, show possible answers and ask students to discuss solutions. Provide time in class to simply “think” in the form of creating an example, brainstorming solutions, categorizing ideas, thinking about what has been learning, thinking about what’s still muddy, thinking about ideas that don’t fit the theory.

4 - Perspective
What type of perspective is provided? How does the student progress toward understandings? How do students “put it all together”? Match how students understand with different perspectives.

Example. Most classrooms are designed to meet the needs of sequential learners. To reach global learners, be sure to provide the “big picture” and learning outcomes for each class period. Establish the context and relevance of content and relate it to student experiences. Use “what ifs” and involve students in seeing the impact of decisions. Show how content fits into more advanced concepts. Ask students to design alternative solutions for problems. Applaud creative solutions, even incorrect ones.

Whole-Part-Whole Activity. This works well for both analytic and global learners.

As you design instruction, use a variety of strategies to reach different types of learners. You don't need to throw in the kitchen sink, however you never know what might reach a learner.

try itTry It! Apply Adult Learning Styles
1. Select and read a learning styles card (click the card below to download the cards).
2. Find the other people with a card in your category:
Preference, Perceiving, Processing, or Perspective.
3. Share the characteristics described on your card.
4. Discuss whether your learning style is more like your card or a peer's card.
5. Brainstorm a class activity that would meet the needs of all learners in your category. Use the last couple handout pages for ideas.
6. When your instructor calls an end to the round, switch cards with a member of another group and complete steps 2-5 again.

cardNeed class topic ideas? Consider the following objectives from course syllabi:
• Identify the components of vital signs.
• Describe the methods to obtain a pulse rate.
• Demonstrate the skills in obtaining a pulse.
• Identify normal and abnormal pupil size.
• Demonstrate the skills in assessing the pupils.
• Describe the safe lifting of cots and stretchers.
• Explain the rationale for properly lifting and moving patients.
• Working with a partner, the EMT-Basic will demonstrate techniques for the transfer of a patient from an ambulance stretcher to a hospital stretcher.
• Differentiate the care of an open wound to the chest from an open wound to the abdomen.
• Discuss current issues in his/ her state impacting EMS.
• Define the role of the paramedic relative to the safety of the crew, the patient, and bystanders.
• Describe the actions that the paramedic should take to preserve evidence at a crime or accident scene.
• Differentiate the strategies a paramedic uses when interviewing a patient who is hostile compared to one who is cooperative.
• Demonstrate the steps in the emergency medical care of a patient with an open chest wound.
• Identify different types of helmets.
• Explain the preferred methods to remove a helmet.

Timing and Grouping Tools


Adult Learners & Instruction

Participants will be able to:
• Identify instructional goals, learning objectives, domains of learning, and student characteristics and their implications for learning.

Adults come to class with real-world needs and expectations such as the desire to become an EMT or paramedic. Instruction is a solution for a performance-based problem. Adult learning isn't about "covering the textbook".

Example: An EMT must be able to safely transport a patient. This student must learn the required knowledge, skills, and dispositions so he or she can become certified.

Instructional Goal

Before designing or enhancing instruction, it's important to ask yourself about your purpose. The National Emergency Medical Services Education Standards (PDF) (2009) from NHTSA describe the outcomes of instruction in terms of student performance. These are the basis for the EMS personnel preparation.

Example: Ask yourself, what do you expect students to be able to know and do as a result of instruction? How does this relate to the national standards?

Example: Ensure the safety of the rescuer and others during an emergency.

Learning Objectives

Objectives focus on specific, measurable learning expectations and outcomes.

Why Objectives?

Example: The student will identify the illness or injury of a patient given a list of signs and symptoms 90% of the time.

try itTry It! Identify the ABCDs
Examine the objectives below and identify the ABCDs.
The student will identify the major bones of the body when given a drawing of a human body 100% of the time.
When given a mannequin, the student will accurately demonstrate four ways to prevent back injuries.

Domains of Learning

In the 1950s, Benjamin Bloom identified three major areas of learning:

Cognitive (thinking). Focuses on recalling, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information. Learners are able to do some cognitive activity such as apply rules or solve problems. Learn by storing and accessing information. What do I know?

Example: Opening the airway is the A in ABCDE.

Affective (feeling). Focuses on appreciations, attitudes, relationships, and values. Learners are able to make informed decisions based on values or priorities. Learn by accessing feelings and understanding emotions. What is the value?

Example: Opening the airway will keep the patient alive.

Psychomotor (doing). Focuses on actions that demonstrate large or small motor skills. Learners are able to achieve a physical result such as operating a piece of equipment. Learn by doing. Kinesthetic movements. What do I do?

Example: I need to perform the steps in opening the airway.

The EMS profession requires proficiency in all three areas. Yet, some students struggle in one or more areas.

Example: An EMT must RECOGNIZE (cognitive) the indications for oxygen therapy, APPRECIATE (affective) the level of distress felt by the patient, and ASSEMBLE (psychomotor) an oxygen tank and flow oxygen.

try itTry It! Consider Domains
Which is your strongest domain: cognitive, affective, or psychomotor? What about your students?
Where are the strengths and weaknesses of your students in terms of the domains: cognitive, affective, psychomotor?

Audience Analysis

Knowing your students is the key to teaching.

Student Characteristics. Who are your students?

Example: All students have a high school diploma or GRE, however many have a low reading level and lack interest in reading.

Implications of Student Characteristics. What are these people like as learners?

Example: Rather than large blocks of reading, materials will be presented in chunks at the lowest reading level necessary to address the learning outcome. Visual examples will be used to supplement text-based examples.

try itTry It! Identify Yourself and Your Learners
What are the typical entry skills, demographics and predispositions of your students?
How does that impact learning?

BREAK TIME - full-screen countdown

Proceed to Learning Experiences

Some standards and examples excerpt from the National Guidelines for Educating EMS Instructors (2002) from NHTSA.
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