Use Of Action Research To Reduce The Theory-Practice Gap In A Nursing Course

Field, Dorothy (2003). Use Of Action Research To Reduce The Theory-Practice Gap In A Nursing Course. EdD thesis The Open University.



This small scale action research study explored the causes of a theory practice gap in a specialist post registration nursing course, studied in one geographical area in England, and set out to discover how it may be reduced. Educational and nursing literature was studied to focus the aims of the study. Research questions are proposed and investigated using an action research methodology. The action research data is presented in three parts: interviews with the research participants, examination of documentary evidence and the main focus of the study, the action research cycles.

Challenges with the chosen methodology were identified early in the study, and a solution was developed which will also serve to add to the evidential basis of the action research cycles which are presented in narrative forin. The study was written in the first person, and acknowledges the researcher's presence and influences within the data. Past and present students, their managers and mentors all contributed to the study, and have all checked the data for validity. The overall aim of the action research approach was to gather data from educational theorists, and those who participated in the course to adapt or change the nursing curriculum to facilitate the students' professional development as ophthalmic nurses. The research was not just about the results achieved in terms of course modifications; it was also about our development as a team of people working together to improve the ophthalmic nursing curriculum with the longer term objective of benefiting patients through the improvement of nursing practice.
The research study was focussed on knowledge and the curriculum, and for the purposes of this nursing educational study the curriculum was perceived broadly, as those teaching and learning activities which take place in the university classroom, and more cogently, within the field of nursing practice. The study examined how current educational theories might be used to relate nursing theory and practice and educational policy at local and national level how might be related to a specialist nursing curriculum. It questioned what influence the Lecturer practitioner might have in relating theory to practice and how the role of the mentor might be used to coach higher levels of nursing practice.
Key conclusions suggested that nursing lecturers need to continue to press for academic validation of nursing practice. The mentoring relationship is seen as the key in the reification of practice and theoretical knowledge. Well supervised clinical practice was seen as an essential part of learning nursing theory. The significant contributions that Mentors have to make to course management meetings in order that the academic study of nursing and the development of clinical practice are in a reciprocal relationship were demonstrated.

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