Carolina RN to BSN Online
Conceptual Bases of Professional Nursing Practice
Learner Variables:  Readiness
Part 1:  Variables Influencing Teaching and Learning

System Variables

Teacher Variables

Learner Variables

Part 2:  The Seven Steps of Planning --Plus One

Weekly Assignment 1
Evaluating Learning

Weekly Assignment 2
Analyzing Experiences


Readiness seems at first glance to be simple and straight forward-is the learner ready to learn or not? However, readiness is not as simple as it seems; it has several dimensions. We might expand the question to ask, " Does the learner have the experience, desire, and physical and mental ability to learn what I'm trying to teach?" This expanded question includes all three aspects of readiness: experiential readiness; emotional readiness; and physical and mental ability.

Experiential Readiness
As the label implies, experiential readiness is based on the learner's experience including:

  • Cultural experiences
  • Developmental experiences
  • Educational/learning experiences

The learner's culture always affects teaching-learning interactions, we're just more aware of it when the learner's culture is different from that of the majority, or when the teacher and learner are members of different cultures. While language is an important component of culture and can be  a critical barrier to effective patient/family teaching, it's important to remember that there are other components of culture that can influence teaching and learning.   Beliefs about health, illness and treatment, family roles, and responsibility for decision making are examples of cultural differences that often present a challenge in health teaching.

Developmental experiences refer to those experiences that come with maturation. Again lets' consider this as a question, "Has the learner had the developmental experiences to be ready to learn what I'm trying to teach?"

Developmental Experience Examples

Pre-teens and teens are ready to learn about sex and related issues in some detail.

Peri-menopausal women are ready to learn about menopause symptoms, symptom management options, etc.

Expectant parents are ready to learn about caring for the baby, and maybe about parenting in general.

Educational/learning experiences refer to mastery of information and skills which are prerequisite to what you're trying to teach. This includes information and skills learned in both formal and informal learning situations, and ranges from a single skill to mastery of a set of information and/or skills.

Educational/Learning Experience Examples

College algebra is a prerequisite to statistics in many schools.
In this case there is a package of prerequisite knowledge and skills-the concepts and rules taught in college algebra.

Knowing the steps in the nursing process is prerequisite to developing a care plan using the nursing process.
Remember the cognitive learning theorists-here's an application. Identifying the steps of the nursing process is a lower level on the cognitive processing hierarchy than applying the nursing process.

The ability to manipulate a syringe and medication vial are prerequisite to the ability to draw up an IM or SQ medication.

Inability (or limited ability) to read makes it difficult for many people to learn what we're trying to teach in health care. This is not to say that we can't teach without using written materials, but, let's face it, we often depend on written materials for some if not most all of our teaching. If you work with many patients who have low literacy skills, you've probably learned or developed strategies for teaching these people effectively. In that case, the following article may be a review, or you may decide you don't need to read it. The article "Low Literacy Skills Needn't Hinder Care" describes the problem of functional illiteracy in the US, and offers practical strategies for identifying and teaching people with low literacy skills.

Schultz, M., Low Literacy Skills Needn't Hinder Care, 2002

Emotional Readiness
Emotional readiness is what we more commonly call motivation. "Does the person have the desire to learn what you're trying to teach, and the energy to invest?" Note that motivation, or emotional readiness, involves more than just whether or not a person wants to learn. S/he must also have the energy to invest in learning. This probably makes a lot of sense to you right now-talk about readiness!. As busy adults with multiple responsibilities, you may often find that you don't have as much energy as you'd like to invest in this or other courses you're taking. Obviously this is also an important consideration for people who are experiencing the physical and emotional energy drain resulting from health problems and treatment.

Physical and Mental Ability
The final component of readiness is the learner's physical and mental ability. In this case we're talking about structure and function, not knowledge and skills. Physical and mental ability is to some extent genetically determined-our talents or "gifts" and our limitations. However, within our individual limits, physical and mental ability can be increased or decreased. Changes occur over time-some are purposeful, some are normal effects of aging, and some are the brought about by illness and treatment. In health teaching, we may have to delay some teaching until the learner's physical or mental abilities improve, or we may have to accept that he/she may never have the ability to learn some information or skill, and look for alternatives such as teaching a caregiver.

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