By: Russ Brown, NRP

Have you ever noticed certain medical education topics seem easier to learn than others? Do you have a specific niche you enjoy learning or teaching? I must confess that I am an ECG nerd. I love learning everything I can about ECG interpretation and imparting this knowledge to others. The Krebs cycle, well…. not so much! The main determinant of acquiring new knowledge or skills is largely dependent on our motivation. Self-motivation is a major trait of individuals with high emotional intelligence. Understanding self-motivation and how it drives behavior is paramount to educators in both curriculum design and teaching methodology. Motivation has traditionally been broken into the following two components.

Intrinsic motivation: Behavior that is driven towards internal rewards. (it is naturally satisfying to you.)

Extrinsic motivation: Behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, prestige, high grades, or fame.

Much of the information we have on motivation in medical education comes from the research of educator Malcolm Knowles. Knowles proposed that one of the transitions from childhood to adulthood involves a learning shift from extrinsic motivation to predominantly intrinsic motivation. As adult learners we are autonomous and are expected to be self-directed and accountable for our learning. This model of medical education has led to the development of teaching modalities such as self-directed learning and problem-based learning. Intrinsically, we are motivated to learn by our desire to help others or to be the best version of ourselves, but new research indicates it may not be this simple. A paper by Misch DA titled Andragogy and medical education: Are Medical students internally motivated to learn, suggests that it is more likely a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that contribute to a student’s learning. How much extrinsic motivation factors such as money or prestige play into the learning equation varies by individual. At the crux of medical education is an inherent desire to do the best for our patients. As the saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility” and as medical educators we must tailor our education to inspire and foster a sense of lifelong learning in our students and not solely on rote memorization. Below are some ways to foster a sense of self-motivation in adult learners thus improving emotional intelligence.

Make it relevant: This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how often we focus on things that are not relevant to our medical learners’ needs. Establish clearly defined goals for your educational sessions and focus on the “why behind what you are teaching. While it does help to understand the various roles of other healthcare providers, you would not teach a group of med-surg nurses how to intubate if that is not in their scope of practice. You can improve your own self-motivation as well by focusing on what is relevant to you. Notice that I used the word “relevant.” Relevance may not necessarily be what is interesting to you. We’ve all had to learn medical topics that may not be terribly interesting, but are most defiantly relevant to our practice. We all gravitate towards topics of interest to us, but it is essential to take the time to reflect upon why other topics may not interest us as much. Is the topic or skill difficult? Is a set of external circumstances influencing you? (Fear of embarrassment in front of your peers?) Once these barriers are identified we can begin to open the doors to accelerated learning.

Foster Creativity: Unfortunately, few learners are going to increase their motivation to learn from endless hours sitting through death by PowerPoint lectures. Be creative in your educational curriculum design. Find ways to employ technology to foster group discussion and encourage friendly competition. There are many educational tools available such as Kahoot and Socrative. These apps can be used to create audience participation polls and quizzes as well as real time immediate feedback. Spice up your simulation by using real students to play the roles of patients instead of mannequins. This can add a sense of realism to simulation when the “actors” are able to play the role of combative or uncooperative patients. The possibilities are endless, but the point is to think outside the box to incorporate these teaching modalities into your training offering a fresh perspective and keep the motivation high!

Give meaningful feedback: While this is not an exhaustive blog post on the nuances of feedback, feedback is an important component of fostering motivation. Constructive and timely feedback helps us grow and encourages our motivation to improve. Bad feedback…. well, that can foster feelings of resentment and stifle our motivation. Nobody likes to take a hard look at themselves and how they perform. We all have internal triggers that make us accept or reject feedback. If the feedback comes from a person we like, we will be more accepting of it. If the feedback challenges who we feel we are, then it will be received less favorably. For feedback to be constructive it must possess the following key qualities which can be best remembered by the mnemonic SMART:

  • Specific: Objectives should be very specific to avoid confusion in the learner.
  • Measurable: The goals should be easy to objectively measure and assess progress.
  • Achievable: Objectives should be challenging for the learner but not impossible. It should be a collaboration between the teacher and the student.
  • Relevant: The goals of learning should be aligned with the goals of the organization and strategic objectives of education curriculum.
  • Time based: By setting time limits to a learner’s goals this will encourage the student to complete the task on time and discourage procrastination.

As you can see there are many factors associated with motivation. Motivation is a key component of emotional intelligence and being able to encourage and foster this in your learners is crucial to their growth as clinicians. More importantly, it is fundamental in fostering a love of life-long learning which further perpetuates self-motivation.  In the next blog post we will discuss the importance of social awareness and how being better attuned to the feelings of others is critical to the development of high emotional intelligence.