The Motivated Learner: A Tribute to Grandpa Warnick

My Grandpa Warnick passed away last Friday. He was 102 years old. He dropped out of school after the 8th grade in order to help out on the family farm in southern Delaware (affectionately known as “slower lower”), and never stopped. Well, that’s not entirely true; he reluctantly retired from farming at age 85.

Here’s the funny thing about this 8th grade educated career-farmer: he was one of the most intellectually well-rounded men I knew. He had a large library covering a broad range of topics from Egyptian mythology to calculus to Civil War history to 19th century Germanic bibles. What he never had time to learn in school, he taught to himself by reading about it. One of the common themes that ran through the stories people shared at his memorial service was how you could never come up with a topic for conversation that grandpa didn’t know at least a little about (and quite often, much more than just a little). He had a thirst for knowledge and was the embodiment of the motivated learner.

So what does this have to do with CME? For one, it got me to thinking about how grandpa didn’t wait around for someone to teach him – he sought out education on his own. It got me to thinking about the “motivated learner” and whether or not we are targeting the learners who are most in need of the education we provide. It got me to thinking about the different types of learners and where they fall in the spectrum of educational need and motivation to learn. I found the following grid to be useful for classifying learners (I developed this myself, but it’s quite possible that my sub-conscious stole it from some past reading that I don’t remember):

Group A: I want the doctor who treats me to come from this group. They constantly strive to better themselves even though they might not really need to (these are likely the same guys who always sat in the front of the classroom waving their hands to answer every question).

Group B: the cream of the crop for providers of CME. I would venture to guess that the majority of participants in CME activities come from this group. They have a definite educational need, they are aware of it, and they seek out a path to fulfill it. This is grandpa’s group.

Group C: every class has that one guy who always sits in the back of the class, barely pays attention, hardly exudes any effort, yet kills the curve on every test. They’re incredibly bright and incredibly annoying. The thing with this group is that they have the potential to become dangerous. If the motivation to learn is too low, no matter how bright they are, there is the possibility of falling behind the progress of technology and slipping into the next group…

Group D: and here they are, the Holy Grail of target audiences. They have a defined educational need, but either don’t know about it or don’t care. This group is killing PI CME. That may be an overstatement, but I think you get my point: getting participants to move beyond Stage A & B is really tough. How do you reach this group?

At my company, we have been trying to reach this audience through the use of medical claims data to target those with a high educational need and then offering a variety of educational activities in the hopes that something will appeal to them. My gut tells me that even that approach is likely not reaching Group D. How do you increase someone’s motivation to learn? If the indictment of self-assessment from a PI CME Stage A is not enough to motivate, is there any more that we as educators can do to create motivated learners? The motivation to learn comes from within. Maybe this is a future topic for #CMEchat.

If Grandpa Warnick was still around, he would probably suggest a couple books in his library to help me out. I miss him already…


One response to “The Motivated Learner: A Tribute to Grandpa Warnick

  1. Pingback: The Origin of an Open-Mind | Confessions of a Medical Educator

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