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The evolving landscape of medical education, part four

Knowing the different types of learners will help you develop a more comprehensive education programme

Medical education axon communications

In this week's instalment of our medical education series, Dr Shanida Nataraja, Axon Communications, asks are all learners the same?

In 1986, Honey and Mumford proposed that there were four main adult learning styles1: activist; reflector; theorist; and pragmatist.

Effective medical education must therefore speak to all of these different types of adult learner.

1) An activist needs variety to sustain interest; they enjoy collaborative group learning and will respond well to team-based breakout sessions and agendas with training delivered in a variety of different formats.

2) A reflector likes to hear other people's opinions and wants enough time to fully absorb what they are hearing; they enjoy listening to others and thus group discussion sessions and agendas with enough time for reflection are key.

3) A theorist likes to be challenged by complex ideas in the context of a clear structure and purpose; they enjoy testing learnt ideas by applying them to practical situations and will be a keen participant in interactive case-study based training as part of a clearly defined training agenda.

4) A pragmatist likes practical tips and experience; they enjoy agendas that discuss common practical problems and how to overcome them, as well as hand-on sessions with relevant technologies.

By providing this variety in the way in which medical education is delivered, even within a single training event, attendees as a whole are more likely to retain the educational messages that are being communicated.


1. Honey, P. and Mumford, A. (1986) The Manual of Learning Styles, Peter Honey Associates.

Author: Dr Shanida Nataraja is the editorial and scientific director at Axon Communications and can be contacted at

Read instalments one, two and three

12th October 2012

From: Marketing



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