How might my facilitation of reflective learning of student nurses be improved?

Dyer, Barbara Ann (2009). How might my facilitation of reflective learning of student nurses be improved? EdD thesis The Open University.



The aim of this study was to explore, evaluate and to improve facilitation of reflective learning of pre-registration student nurses. The concept of reflection is important and highly relevant to the nursing profession. My particular focus is based on a curriculum model which embraces reflection, study skills and the pastoral role of the personal tutor. I wanted to explore whether reflection is a useful tool which enables students to link practice with theory. Additionally, the research focuses on the role of the personal tutor within a first year Personal and Educational Development (PED) unit, as I also wanted to explore whether the integrated role of personal tutor and assessor was supportive of students’ learning to reflect.

The research involved qualitative methodology within an action research framework (Wisker, 2001) which involved focus group interviews and individual interviews with staff and students of three successive cohorts of mental health branch nursing students, as well as detailed analyses of ‘critical incidents’ reports and reflective statements together with my own reflective diary and field notes. The interview sample chosen was an opportunity sample of volunteers from my personal tutor groups. The findings identified the significance of the ‘scaffolding’ of peers and tutor support, within students’ individual Zones of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978). Students’ understanding through deep learning was facilitated in the social community (Wenger, 1998) of the group (inter), and developed within the individual (intra). The discourse and cognitive conflict of group learning served to further scaffold students’ application of reflective models, the development of critical incident reports and perspective transformation from private theory to public more abstract theorisation (Griffiths and Tann, 1992)

The findings reported here document that the personal tutor role demands a significant amount of emotional labour (Hochschild, 2003) and that the delivery of the educational content of the unit was frequently sabotaged by pastoral or practice issues. Additionally, unequal power relationships between the personal development tutors and students created a tension of being both a personal supportive tutor and an assessor. Furthermore my findings have established a significant and important link between the emotional stress students experience in their nursing role and the necessity to accommodate this by developing appropriate teaching methods and approaches which enable students to learn reflective activities used within the curriculum. This link had hitherto not been recognised.

Finally, my research findings have served to enrich my professional development and to bring about positive change within my own context in higher education.

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