Within this assignment, the author will reflect on teaching and learning opportunities carried out within an area of practice and linked to this portfolio. Teaching and learning sessions were undertaken with placement students currently undertaking the specialist community public heath nurse (SCPHN) degree course and with students on a Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education (CACHE) course intending to work in the NHS as nursery nurses. The author is a student practice teacher and as such, teaching and learning opportunities are undertaken in order to meet Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) standards to support learning and assessment in practice (NMC 2008). As a trainee practice teacher, the author is required to supervise a SCPHN placement student in placement. Practice teachers must maintain their nursing role for the communities they serve. The author works as a SCPHN in school nursing thus learning opportunities take place within this setting.
Students have participated in specific opportunities for learning by formal, informal and experiential means. For the SCPHN practice student this should allow her to meet her practice objectives and attain the required standards.
Training for SCPHN nurses is undertaken with the basis that once academic and practice placement education is complete,
they will be competent to enter a practice-based profession such as school nursing as a specialist community public health nurse. Programmes are required to deliver learning which joins theory to practice to meet needs of different stakeholders, communities and individuals. These programmes should be practice centred. (NMC 2004)
Learning has been considered be to be a permanent change in knowledge or behaviour (Burns 1995 cited by Dunn 2002). Students embark on learning to meet a variety of needs. Practice teachers provide educational opportunities for students on NMC recognised programmes. It seems pertinent to consider characteristics associated with adult learners. CACHE training is set out to meet vocational education needs; these students are also adult learners. Vocational education develops learning objectives linked to particular forms of employment (Harvey 2004). This explains why the students seemed motivated to learn. The objectives were directly linked to their future careers.
Knowles theory asserted that adults need certain conditions in order to learn (Conner 2004). This andragogy, the author suggests, can actually apply to all learners and does not refer to age but to self-belief. Adults expect to be taught how to study and be engaged in their learning (Reece and Walker 2007). The author discovered that it is naÃ¯ve to assume that all adult learners will be actively involved in setting their own learning objectives. It was noticeable that some of the adult learners had some pre-conceived ideas about their ability and these could prove to be a barrier to learning. While assessing progress with one student it became obvious that she suffered a loss of confidence in areas of practice where she had previously been competent. While preparing for assessments she felt under pressure to read huge volumes of sometimes unnecessary literature. Encouraging her reflection on this was valuable as she was able to relate to issues experienced as a younger learner. Quinn and Hughes (2007) suggest that adult learners have been used to closely directed learning at school and find it difficult to work from their own initiative. The trainee practice teacher found there was a need to facilitate pace of learning in order for the student to be able to reach interim objectives. Setting contracts and agreeing time limited action plans at an earlier stage would have helped with this. Reflection informs that once this was undertaken the learner was able to progress with more focus. This is, a teacher led idea and as such is suited to the theories of pedagogy rather than andragogy. Despite this, the author will use it again. It is worth considering that different students however may require a different approach.
Pedagogy is understood to be the science of educating children. More accurately, pedagogy embodies education directed by the teacher thus meeting the needs of the organisation and maybe not the learner. (Quinn and Hughes 2007). One of the issues that became clear to the author was that the idealistic self directed learning of Knowles writing could not truly exist in this setting. Student nurses and the CACHE students alike were trapped by the curriculum and standards set to produce safe and equitable practitioners. SCHPN students though motivated to qualify maybe driven by the promise of promotion. Government directives that nursing will become a solely graduate profession may also be a motivating factor. Thus, learning may take place that allows the student to pass but may limit deep or retentive learning.
The author has been able to consider different learning styles of learners. Reflective processes inform that teaching should be geared towards individual needs to provide optimal learning opportunities. This is not always possible when teaching large groups
Kolbs model of learning, argues a four stage process (appendix 1 ). Learners can begin with their preferred style at any point in the cycle. Kolb suggests that learning has only concluded when the whole cycle has been experienced (Atherton 2009, Reece and Walker 2004). Kolbs model applied seemed cumbersome. It was difficult to categorise where the students were in the cycle, however the concept of learning through experience and then developing and adjusting belief as knowledge changes is applicable when considering public health practice.
Atherton (2009) describes Honey and Mumfordâ€™s development of this model which used more comprehensible language and thus was more adaptable. It was easy to categorize one learner as reflector and with hindsight; this will help in providing a better learning environment for her.
It is too simplistic to assume that studentâ€™s individual needs can always be met by utilising these models though consideration implies that they could work in objective and lesson planning ..
Evaluating this experience was difficult. Factors such as styles of learning, teacher experience, and learner preconceptions have proved hard to weigh up while developing this portfolio of educational opportunities. Learning theory was not always helpful particularly as curriculum was so often directed by organisations and not learners needs. Some observations were contradictory, though others were useful. Suggestions from an observer to break up lessons by changing activities proved successful in later lessons. The author will attempt to limit negative aspects of adult learning by blending styles related to andragogy and pedagogy in the hope that this will prove supportive of learners needs. Poor timing led to hurried lesson planning without consideration of theoretical ideals. Student learning styles will be assessed at the beginning of placement using a learning styles questionnaire (appendix 2). It is clear to the author that self-awareness through reflection can guide teacher and student alike.