Education Leadership Conference

When teaching a continuing-education class such as professional ethics, instructors can capitalize on their adult students' often extensive professional experience by using an interactive, rather than didactic format, said Cynthia Sturm, PhD, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Portland, Ore., during a session on adult education at the 2004 Education Leadership Conference.

Sturm, who teaches courses for APA's continuing-education program, said that applying these and other principles of active learning increases the chances that clinicians will remember and profit from what they learned in class.

Drawing from the field of adult education, Sturm suggested that instructors:

  • Build on students' existing knowledge. Design classes in such a way that students can share their decades of professional experience with each other. For example, in a clinical ethics course, ask the class to provide examples of thorny situations they've encountered in their own practices and discuss how they resolved the dilemmas.

  • Create a spirit of collaboration. Act as facilitator to a class-wide discussion, where correct answers are not presupposed.

  • Use role-playing. Assign an activity in which participants play the roles of clients giving informed consent to a psychologist--allowing students to broaden their perspectives and practice applying their knowledge to real-world problems.

  • Foster a nonjudgmental classroom environment. Discuss views that are outside the mainstream to give adult students the chance to explore creative alternatives they might otherwise miss.