Background: The ability to adapt expertise to both routine and uncommon situations, termed adaptive expertise, has been suggested as a necessary skill for physicians. The Master Adaptive Learner (MAL) framework proposes four phases necessary to develop adaptive expertise. The first phase, “planning” for learning, includes three stages: identification of gaps, prioritization of gaps, and identification of learning resources. This study explored key strategies used by MALs in “planning” for learning. Methods: Focus groups were used to identify strategies that successful postgraduate trainees use to plan learning. Researchers analyzed transcripts using constant comparison analysis and grounded theory to guide the generation of themes. Results: 38 participants, representing 14 specialties, participated in 7 focus groups. Six key strategies used in the “planning” phase of learning were found. During gap identification, they used performance-driven gap identification and community-driven gap identification. To prioritize gaps, they used the schema of triage and adequacy. To identify resources they used intentional adaptation and weighted curation. Barriers such as lack of time and inexperience were noted. Conclusions: MALs use six strategies to plan learning, using patients, health-care team roles, and clinical questions to guide them. Understanding these strategies can help educators design learning opportunities and overcome barriers.
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