Telling and Listening to Practice Related Stories: Views and Experiences of Final Year Midwifery Students

Weston, Rosalind Anne (2018). Telling and Listening to Practice Related Stories: Views and Experiences of Final Year Midwifery Students. EdD thesis The Open University.



Stories are used to communicate culture, belief, knowledge and understanding. This study filled a gap in the evidence and explored final year midwifery students’ views and experiences of practice-related storytelling as a means for learning.

The initial study of four participants used an interpretive phenomenological approach. The main study, conducted in a different university in England, was informed by social constructivism and phenomenography. A purposive sample of 15 participants was recruited from two cohorts of final year students. Data were collected between November 2015 and March 2016, through four focus groups and two semi-structured interviews. These were analysed using a seven step phenomenographic process.

The findings indicate that stories are viewed as ‘vehicles’ to communicate childbearing women’s stories; ‘signposts’ to help avoid mistakes in practice; ‘batons’ to pass on learning to other students; ‘comfort blankets’ to reassure and as ‘capstones’ of learning. These metaphors are connected through the analogy of midwifery students’ journeys towards registration.

Stories and storytelling link theory to practice, and engage students’ emotions. They facilitate transformational learning, and are a memorable way to learn about practice. Stories are ‘held onto’, particularly in challenging situations, and are a means for ‘containing’ students’ emotions. Students deliberately tell stories in their ‘communities of practice’, within the ‘liminal space’ of clinical practice, and when returning to university.

A conceptual model illustrates how stories and storytelling are viewed and experienced by midwifery students. Storytelling is a valuable pedagogical approach to learning. Educators should ensure story-sharing is embedded in curricula, and draw on their personal ‘store of stories’ to enhance teaching. Service users’ digital and face-to-face stories should be used to enable compassionate practice. Mentors should be able to debrief their own critical experiences before passing these stories on to students. Peer storytelling and listening opportunities should be facilitated in practice and university.

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