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Lifelong Learning, Education & Assessment Research Network (LEARN)


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The program of LEARN focuses on fundamental and learner/professional-related research into adult learning activities and learning culture in the domain of health professions education. LEARN's major aim is to contribute to healthcare by advancing health professions education. LEARN is strongly linked to both undergraduate and postgraduate activities, it serves as an inspiration to support best practices in education. ​​​​

Programme Leader  

Prof. A.D.C. Jaarsma, PhD

Mission and description of the Programme:  


The mission of LEARN is to contribute to excellent and safe healthcare by improving and advancing health professions education across the continuum of education and practice from first-year (medical) students to experienced healthcare professionals in the final stage of their careers. Central to this mission is high quality multidisciplinary research and teaching within the broad domain of health professions education, ranging from undergraduate programmes in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing through PhD programmes, to workplace-based learning for all kinds of health professionals.
Since LEARN is strongly linked to both undergraduate and postgraduate activities, it serves as a resource to support best practice in educational programme design and delivery including assessment, within the UMCG and its affiliated teaching hospitals. The LEARN programme nourishes the concept of lifelong learning. LEARN views the concept of lifelong learning as integrated with a learning culture/ learning organization that serves as a basis for continuously improving quality and safety in health care.

LEARN will help shape theories, learning activities and learning culture in the domain of health professions education by (1) creating new knowledge through research and informed innovation; (2) building scholarly capacity through faculty development and mentorship activities; and (3) fostering a culture of collaboration and scholarly thinking in health professions education.

Continuous educational innovation is a core component of the missions of the Research Institute SHARE, the University Medical Center Groningen and the University of Groningen. Educational research is essential for finding new and better ways to educate health professionals and prepare them to fulfill the UMCG healthy ageing mission.


Description of the Programme
Research in health professions education aims to deepen and enrich the understanding of teaching and learning practices and culture. The scope of research ranges from the processes of admission into a health professions programme to the development and maintenance of competence and continuing professional development and identity processes engaged throughout a professional’s career.

LEARN’s research programme focuses on three main themes:
(1) Lifelong Learning, Learning Environments and Assessment; (2) Medical Skills Acquisition, Simulation and (Team)training; and (3) Curriculum Development, Implementation and Evaluation.
These themes are closely aligned with educational development within the undergraduate and postgraduate medicine and health professions curricula.

The first theme is concerned with research of learning environments and culture and assessment practices that challenge learners to become active, self-directed/self-regulated learners throughout their professional careers (lifelong learning). It also covers the impact of the educational environment on the learners’ wellbeing and the mutual relationship between educational climate and faculty wellbeing and development. This also involves developing a learning culture in which striving for continuously improving quality and safety of healthcare is a central theme.

The second theme focuses on researching professionals’ skills acquisition, simulation and training, such as:

  • instructional design for skills training and development of simulation/games.
  • health care professional-patient communication, with a focus on patient-centred communication, person-centred care and patient safety and interprofessional collaboration.


The third research theme is concerned with the (decision-making) change processes related to innovation and development of curricula, curriculum implementation and quality assurance and evaluation.
Studies within this theme typically focus on:

  • leadership in educational change projects
  • specific innovations, such as programmatic assessment, longitudinal professional development courses, learning communities.


The LEARN team is multidisciplinary in composition and includes (medical) educationalists, medical specialists, nurses, social scientists (psychology, sociology, business and economics), linguists, basic and applied health scientists, teachers and students. Professionals of different departments and faculties participate in the team to collaborate across areas. Both the total program and the team members maintain close links with the educational organizations within the UMCG and the affiliated teaching hospitals. Besides, links are established and maintained with health care practices (departments, care trajectories) within the UMCG. These collaborations will strengthen educational exchanges in both the undergraduate and postgraduate settings and provide routes for the implementation of research findings into practice. In particular, most research is explicitly undertaken in collaboration with the educational organizations and the affiliated teaching hospitals and, therefore, often initiated and informed by (medical) practice.

Relevance to Healthy Ageing  

The relevance of the LEARN research programme and its members’ expertise for Healthy Ageing is threefold.

First, by educating health professionals in the best possible way, supported by the best available scientific evidence, we strive to prepare (future) health professionals who are able to work and learn in alignment with the UMCG Healthy Ageing mission. It is becoming increasingly clear that medical care for elderly people should focus on person-centred care instead of disease centred, medical-technical care. This insight not only requires a paradigm shift in the training of health care students and the house staff of a hospital, but also indicates a need for the existing faculty to engage in lifelong learning activities in order to accommodate both patients and learners with new needs.

Second, within the first theme of our research program –Lifelong Learning, Learning Environments and Assessment– we investigate  learners’ healthy living and working, which can be seen as a prerequisite for Healthy Ageing of our (future) health professions workforce.

Third, we feel LEARN will  make a valuable contribution to studies of many other research programmes within the UMCG which focus on Healthy Ageing and have formulated objectives for educational dissemination and implementation.

Principal Investigators / nr of PhD students