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Andragogy and medical education: are medical students internally motivated to learn?

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Center for Educational Excellence, Medical College of Georgia, CB-1846 Augusta, GA 30912, USA.


Andragogy - the study of adult education - has been endorsed by many medical educators throughout North America. There remains, however, considerable controversy as to the validity and utility of adult education principles as espoused by the field's founder, Malcolm Knowles. Whatever the utility of andragogic doctrine in general education settings, there is reason to doubt its wholesale applicability to the training of medical professionals. Malcolm Knowles' last tenet of andragogy holds that adult learners are more motivated by internal than by external factors. The validity of this hypothesis in medical education is examined, and it is demonstrated that medical students' internal and external motivation are context-dependent, not easily distinguishable, and interrelate with one another in complex ways. Furthermore, the psychological motivation for medical student learning is determined by a variety of factors that range from internal to external, unconscious to conscious, and individual to societal. The andragogic hypothesis of increased internal motivation to learn on the part of adults in general, and medical trainees in particular, is rejected as simplistic, misleading, and counterproductive to developing a greater understanding of the forces that drive medical students to learn.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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