Understanding Your Learner: Conducting a Learner Analysis

Understanding Your Learner: Conducting a Learner Analysis

Tina M. Souders
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0420-8.ch072
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Now more than ever before, health care educators are being challenged to meet the complex and dynamic needs of an expanding health care workforce. Continuing education requirements as well as graduate and undergraduate programs are striving to keep pace with the demands for more highly skilled health care professionals. Likewise, technology and related instructional media have been evolving at an exponential pace. The confluence of these variables requires health care educators to be knowledgeable about the options and tools available to design and deliver instruction using a variety of platforms in more diverse settings. In order to ensure that instruction achieves its intended goals, it is imperative to fully assess the learner characteristics of the target audience. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the rationale for conducting a learner analysis and utilizing learner characteristics in designing effective instruction.
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Behavioral Learning Theory

The earliest theories of learning grew out of behavioral psychology. Behaviorism, as an educational learning theory, suggests that learning results in observable changes in behavior (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Some of the most well-known behaviorists include Edward L. Thorndike, Ivan Pavlov, and B. F. Skinner. Their contributions to understanding learning focused on the observation of behavior and the predictable link between stimulus and response. Moreover, these early learning theorists argued that observing behavior was the most reliable way to research psychological and mental processes. Behaviorist theory posits that learners should be assessed prior to instruction in order to determine where instruction should begin (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Limitations associated with behaviorism emerged in the late 1970s as researchers began to explore unobservable phenomena such as memory. As a result, a new theory of cognitive science, where memory, schema formation, and mental processes, was introduced and studied (Winn, 2004).

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