Adult Learning: Testing Myths and Truths

By Carol S. Havens, MD, FAAFP; and Shelly B. Rodrigues, CAE, FACEHP

The field of adult education and thus continuing medical education, continuing education and continuing professional development is covered widely in research, literature, how-to books, peer reviewed articles and the lay press. The “Make It Stick”1 concept was top of mind at the ACEhp meeting, but do education professionals really know the tenets of adult learning? Are we just passing along the myths we’ve picked up along our own journeys?

To test our collective beliefs in myth or truth of adult education principles, we’ve recreated a bit of our January ACEhp Annual Meeting session, Let's Talk Adult Learning Principles and Bust a Few Education Myths. Please play/read along with us! The session was interactive and so is this article. Read the statement, make your guess and then look at the explanation.

Click here to interact with this article. 

As education professionals with the mission to provide experiences for our learners that will improve their abilities and ultimately the care patients receive, not only must we engage in the tenets of adult education for our learners but also for ourselves. The authors welcome your feedback. Try a principle or two and let us know how they are working for you and the changes you make in your educational program for learners and for yourself. 


Make It Stick, Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger, III and Mark A. McDaniel, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014

Design for How People Learn, Julie Dirksen, New Riders Voices that Matter, 2nd edition, 2016
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
, Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, Copyright 2016 and First Mariner Books, edition 2017.

Myth and Truth: Research tells us that practicing a skill over and over again can increase our chances of successfully learning and mastering a skill. If we refer to the first myth covered in this article, you’ll recall that the key is not just the repetition but also the intentional, strategic repetition. Simple rote replication, without conscious engagement in the effort, will not increase mastery. However, repetition with intense concentration on the effort, performing the skill the best a learner can and endeavoring to improve each time, is called “deliberate practice” and evidence shows it will increase mastery. [“Make It Stick,” page 61.]

Recent Stories
Alliance Podcast Episode 18: Spotlight on Leadership

Comparison of In-Person Versus Tele-Ultrasound Point-of-Care Ultrasound Training During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Rockpointe Presents Online CME Course on Treating High-Risk Patients With COVID-19