Approaches to Learning and Teaching


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1. Objectives

By the end of the module, learners will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the importance of applying learning principles to teaching experiences.
  2. Describe 5 approaches used in contemporary learning and teaching.
  3. Describe a simple framework to plan effective teaching experiences.

2. Preparation in Advance

Think of a really satisfying learning experience that you have had.

  • What was it about the experience that left you feeling satisfied?
  • What did the teacher do to make the experience satisfying?
  • What did you do to contribute to the learning experience?
  • Describe the learning environment. How did it influence the experience?

3. The Module

Review key events by reviewing the timeline below:

On the next tab, you can see theories and models that many currently find to be useful.

4. Application of the Module

As you review the other modules on our website, ask yourself: How are learning principles applied in this module?

5. Next Steps and Coaching

  • Please write down 3 things you can do differently based on what you learned in this module.
  • Try inviting a trusted colleague to watch you during your teaching and ask for feedback.
  • Use our forum to discuss ideas about teaching with other educators.

6. Summary Points

Great teachers have existed for millennia, and many theories and principles have been developed to describe how learning happens, such as:

  • Andragogy
  • Mastery learning and deliberate practice
  • Reflective practice
  • Social cognitivism and social constructivism
  • Neurosciences of learning

In any teaching situation, one should consider the following questions:

  • Who are my learners?
  • What do I want to teach?
  • How will I teach my learners?
  • How will I know what they have learned?
    • Bing-You RG, Lee R, Trowbridge RL, Varaklis K, Hafler JP. Commentary: principle-based teaching competencies. J Grad Med Educ. 2009 Sep;1(1):100-3.
    • Ericsson KA. Acquisition and Maintenance of Medical Expertise: A Perspective From the Expert-Performance Approach With Deliberate Practice. Acad Med. 2015 Nov;90(11):1471-86.
    • Fleming M, House S, Hanson VS, Yu L, Garbutt J, McGee R, Kroenke K, Abedin Z, Rubio DM. The Mentoring Competency Assessment: validation of a new instrument to evaluate skills of research mentors. Acad Med. 2013 Jul;88(7):1002-8.
    • Knowles M, Holton EF, Swanson RA. The Adult Learner. 8th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.
    • Mintz M, Southern DA, Ghali WA, Ma IW. Validation of the 25-Item Stanford Faculty Development Program Tool on Clinical Teaching Effectiveness. Teach Learn Med. 2015;27(2):174-81.
    • Sandars J. The use of reflection in medical education: AMEE Guide No. 44. Med Teach. 2009 Aug;31(8):685-95.

About the Authors

Rachel Levine, MD, MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine
Co-Director Faculty Development Program in Teaching Skills
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Sean Tackett, MD
Sean Tackett, MD, MPH
Instructor of Medicine
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Module Editor

Joseph Cofrancesco Jr., MD, MPH, FACP
Director of the Institute for Excellence in Education
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Institute for Excellence in Education Professor of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine