Potential Merits Of Research Education Essay

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Continuous Professional Development in medical laboratory science. This is a means of demonstrating on-going commitment to continual education and professional development. It is envisaged that CPD will provide opportunity to continue education over an entire career of a medical laboratory scientist. The CPD program is run on line by the professional governing body 'The Academy of Medical Laboratory Scientists'. Involvement in CPD not mandatory at the moment and participation is voluntary, it is expected that when statutory registration for the allied health professionals is introduced, that CPD involvement will be mandatory for registration. It is envisaged that the registration for medical laboratory scientists will be established 2013/2014.

Working Title of the Project

'To what extent are medical laboratory scientists motivated to participate in continuous professional development (CPD).'

Statement of purpose.

The purpose of the research is to investigate why medical laboratory scientists participate in CPD. What motivates the participants to get involved or why are some people not involved and what are the barriers to participation? To establish what benefits exist for employees that participate in CPD. This type of research is 'descriptive research' as the author is trying to describe a situation

In pedagogical terminology, the theory that underpins this collaboration and communication in the Academy's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is constructivist theory. The participants are also part of a community where this knowledge is considered important and therefore they are part of an online community of practice (Lave and Wegner, 1991). The participants access the CPD tasks and submit the answers via the Academy's VLE. The tasks to be completed need to be meaningful to the participants for the participants to be motivated to complete the tasks (Barb and Duffy, 2000).

Research Statement or Question

"CPD or not CPD that is the question" The aim of this study will consider:

What motivates employees to participate in CPD?

The strengths and weaknesses of CPD.

What benefits exist for the employee?

The level of support offered to individuals engaging in CPD.

The overall value of CPD is considered

Should CPD be a mandatory?

What programs do the employees want to participate in?

This will be assessed using a survey questionnaire and the results of the survey will be assessed.

Research Concepts and Variables.

One of the key concepts in this proposal is motivation. Motivation is a force that drives behaviour. Motivation can be defined as "getting people to do something because they want to do it" (InspirationalSpark, n/d). When attempting to develop motivation in a person, clear expectations need to be set out and these expectations need to be communicated and understood by that person. McClelland's (1987) theory of work motivation built on the earlier work of Maslow's 'The hierarchy of needs theory' (1943), and argues that people have an 'achievement motive' and the achieve motive can be developed by attainment of realistic but challenging goals and a need for accomplishment. Furthermore Hamburg and Engert (2007) argue there are three causes for poor levels of motivation when participating in on-line training.

Learners are not permitted to take any time out of the work for on-line training.

Learners are not able connect or link the on-line activities to their real world duties.

When the learners have problems in the on-line forum. There is inadequate support for the learner.

The variables here will be age, gender, motivation, academic achievement, computer competency and role of the subject played by the learner. Due to the survey questionnaire being sent by e-mail it may be answered by a majority of the younger demographic who are more comfortable with this type of media.

Sources of Literature

Abbott P. and Sapsford R. (1998) 'Survey Research: Design and Sampling' in P. Abbott and R. Sapsford. Research methods for nurses and the caring professions. 2nd edn. Buckingham: Oxford University Press (pp. 94-107).

This book is focused on research carried out by one or two people involved in patient care rather than research teams. Abbott and Sapsford give some interesting examples and is useful introduction quantitative design and analysis. I will be using this book as a reference and practical guide to survey research.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New York: General Learn Press.

Bandura was a psychologist and his social learning theory was introduced here. Bandura proposes that a diversity of factors act together as agents of learning. These factors can be behavioural, social personal or environmental.

Bell, J. (2010) Doing your research project. 5th edn. Maidenhead. Berkshire: Open University Press.

This is a very practical and helpful book and is very user friendly and gives good advice for each section of the project. This book is designed to be easy to pick up and dip into the section that is of relevance.

Boreham, N. (2000). Collective professional knowledge, Medical Education, 34, pp.505-506.

Although Boreham does not use the term 'communities of practice', in relation to the medical profession, he uses 'a social concept of learning' instead. Boreham stresses the added importance of learning in communities, showing the existence of individual knowledge and the blending several people knowledge through practice, is influential in the formation of 'new knowledge'.

Bryman, A. (2008). Social research methods. 3rd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This book gives a good introduction to social research, and is easy to read. Bryman has a lot of experience in research methods and gives good explanation of the approaches and techniques in social research. I am continually referring back to it throughout the process of writing my dissertation especially the chapter on quantitative research pp. 139-162.

Eraut, M. (1994). Developing professional knowledge and competence. London: Falmer Press.

Eraut argues while most CPD might be considered a means of introducing and augmenting knowledge, skills and positions. Consequently it is not only the nature of professional knowledge being attained that is significant, but the perspective through which it is obtained, and later used, that really helps us recognise the nature of that knowledge. However he does not give specific deliberation to the role of informal learning that happens within the institutional environment.

Holmes, B. and Gardner, J. (2006). E-learning Concepts and Practices. Sage Publications Ltd.

Holmes and Gardner state that there are a number of non-hierarchical skills and practices applied in e-learning.

Honey, P. and Mumford, A. (1992). A manual of learning styles. Maidenhead, Peter Honey Publications.

Honey and Mumford define learners as "Activist", "Reflectors" "Theorists" and Pragmatists". Their description and measurement of learning style is grounded in Kolb's experimental learning model, with styles closely corresponding to those defined by Kolb.

Jarvis, P. (1987). Adult learning in the social context. London: Routledge.

Here Jarvis considers adult learning in a 'sociological perspective'. It is very revealing experimental learning around and reflection.

Johnson, D.W., and Johnson, R.T. (1999). Positive Independence; Key to Effective Cooperation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

'Social interdependence theory' is advanced by Johnson and considers how social interdependence is organised influences the way individuals will perform, which in turn influences results. Positive engagement leads to increased efforts to succeed.' Interdependency theory' reasons that joint efforts are founded on intrinsic motivation and produced by social influences

Jones N. and Fear N. (1994). 'Continuing professional development: Perspectives from human resource professionals'. Personnel Review, 23 (8) pp. 49-60.

Here several important issues associated with continuing professional development are considered. Although this is gives the results of a study of human resource professionals in South Wales, the viewpoints expressed can be deemed to be representative of other professionals participating in CPD. They found that many establishments and businesses did not put great importance on CPD and the bulk of those who responded were against compulsory CPD; however the respondents were also in favour of some acknowledgment and certification for CPD.

Kennedy A. (2005). 'Models of continuing professional development: a framework for analyses. Journal of in-service education. Vol 31 (2) 235-250.

According to Kennedy the recognition of the participants involved in CPD of the presence of the community is vital to their learning. Thus depending on the part the individual plays in the broader team, learning within such a community might be either positive and helpful or a passive occurrence, where the knowledge of the prevailing members of the group shapes other individual understanding of the community and its role.

Knowles, M., Holton, E. and Swanson, R. (2005).The adult learner. 6th edn. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.

This book looks at the adult learner who Knowles describes as autonomous and self-directed. The teacher must actively involve the adult participants in the learning process and serve as a facilitator for them. Knowles acknowledges that motivation plays a part here as the strongest motivators are internal pressures these may be self -esteem, job satisfaction thus leading to increased quality of life.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experimental learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prentice Hall.

Learning is a continuous activity throughout one's life and is a process leading to the creation of knowledge which allows us to understand and make conclusions about our lives that influence our future experiences. This gives the Kolb's well known model.

Lave J. and Wegner, E. (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Here there is considerable examination of learning as involvement communities of practice. Learning is not seen as the attainment of knowledge by individual learners but as the 'process of social participation' and the environment has a considerable influence on learning.

Madden C., and Mitchell, V., (1993) Professionals, standards and competence: a survey of continuing education for the professions. University of Bristol, Department for continuing education.

Here Madden and Mitchell describe continuing professional development as "the maintenance and enhancement of the knowledge, expertise and competence of professionals throughout their careers according to a plan formulated with regard to the need of the professional, the employer, the profession and society". However Madden and Mitchell also point out CPD is not only benefits the individual who is actually developing themselves but also there is a benefit for the employer as standards are upheld which leads to increased confidence by the user in the service provided. Thus using CPD schemes helps occupations which are in the process of professionalization as part of their strategy to improve their credibility status.

Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. New York, Harper. Maslow advanced 'the theory of motivation' and the 'hierarchy of needs'. The hierarchy of needs recognises there are five stages before reaching self-fulfilment, the crucial level of motivation. Maslow also argues that people have an 'achievement motive' and the achieve motive can be developed by attainment of realistic but challenging goals and a need for accomplishment.

Megginson, D. and Whitaker, V. (2007). Continuing Professional Development. 2nd edn. London: Chartered Institute of Personal and Development.

CPD is a vital part of professional standards. Here we get some practical information with a range of case studies and practical examples how to establish and promote from CPD.

Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. (M. Gabain, Translation). New York: The Free Press.

Piaget focuses on the individual and intelligence is a part of our basic biological characteristics. Piaget does not agree with success through intervention and considers authentic intellectual ability is mostly achieved unaided.

Rothwell, A. and Arnold, J. (2005). 'How HR professional's rate 'continuing professional development'. Human Resource Management Journal. 15 (3) pp. 18-32.

Rothwell and Arnold discuss a research project undertaken to investigate the opinion of HR employees to CPD. Professional commitment was the dominant predictor of perceived CPD value, however valuing CPD did not automatically lead into participation in CPD. Interestingly they found that females had a more positive position to the value of CPD than males. They argue that the responsibility for the CPD development is the individual themselves otherwise they will feel alienated from it. They also highlight that imposing mandatory CPD requirements risk alienating their established members which may produce resistance and impede engagement in CPD.

Skinner B.F. (1973). Beyond freedom and dignity. London: Penguin

Skinner advocated 'Behaviour Learning Theory'. It is based on the idea that learners will put a large amount of effort into tasks for which they obtain a positive acknowledgement and put don't put effort into tasks that neither give a positive reaction nor penalty.

Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities. The key to teaching and learning on-line Routledge Falmer.

Salmon model can be used to develop training models. The part of the e-moderator plays in the learning process is essential in facilitating the learners to develop constructive and reflective practices in the on-line environment and to employ the new knowledge to both enhance and modify work practices.

Singleton R.A. and Straits B.C. (1999). Approaches to Social Research: Elements of Research Design. Available at: http://www.politicalscience.uncc.edu/godwink/PPOL8602/SS-Chap4%20Elements%20of%20a%20RD.pdf. (Accessed 30/01/2013).

This is article on research and design gave me information on some of the stages involved in research design what elements to consider when starting on my research.

Slay, J. (1997). The use of the internet in creating an effective learning environment. Proceedings for Ausweb97 Third Australian World Wide Web Conference. Australia, 5-9 July. Available at: http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw99/papers/slay2/paper.html. Accessed (02/02/1013).

Slay recommends the use of technologies such as email and discussion boards nurtures collective endeavour. Similarly using communication technologies to augment the on-line learning supports deep learning.

Sukamolson, S. (no date). 'Fundamentals of Quantitative Research'. Available at: http://www.culi.chula.ac.th/e-journal/bod/suphat%20sukamolson.pdf. (Accessed 7/02/2013).

This article was very informative and written in plain English. I found this very useful when writing my proposal as everything was explained with real examples to illustrate the point.

Survey Question Blank (no date) Available at: http://surveynet.ac.uk/sqb/qb/questions.asp (Accessed 09/02/2013).

This is a useful tool for designing a questionnaire and a practical guide to all areas of the survey design.

The Taskforce on Lifelong Learning (2002) Available at: http://www.djei.ie/publications/labour/2002/lifelonglearning.pdf Accessed 14/01/2013.

CPD can also be referred as Life Long Learning (LLL). The European Commission defines lifelong learning as "All learning undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences within a personal, civic, social and /or employment-related perspective". Also recommend is that CPD should be developed in association with all participants of a particular occupation to guarantee that all the necessary knowledge, skills and competences are acknowledged.

University of Wisconsin-Madison (2010). Survey Fundamentals: A guide to designing and implementing surveys http://oqi.wisc.edu/resourcelibrary/uploads/resources/Survey%20Guide%20v%202.0.pdf. (Accessed 8/02/2013).

This site was useful in regard to the survey and presents the subject in plain language and describes in non-technical terms the fundamental principles of an effective survey design and application of practical decisions in writing effective questions.

Vygotsky, L. (1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cole, M., John-Steiner, V., Scriber, S., and Souberman E., Eds.) Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky believed knowledge is socially constructed. He developed the model of 'Zone of Proximal Development'. This is the difference between what a learner can attain by themselves and what they can accomplish working under assistance of a competent other. Thus Vygotsky saw intervention as significant to learning.

Wegner, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Here Wegner maintains we are all are part in several communities of practice and that these are ubiquitous. The main idea here is 'social theory of learning', which recognises that the learning that happens in a community of practice occurs as a consequence of collaboration within that community and not as a consequence of deliberate learning events such as courses. Wegner maintains that agreeing a joint project gives rise to relationships of shared responsibility between those concerned and where the sum of individual knowledge and experience is considerably enriched through shared effort.

Methodology.

The research methodology is outlined here. The rationale, design and presentation of research methods are examined.

The approach to the computer support for learning is advocated by the constructivist approach. In the view of a constructivist, learning is a constructive processes in which the learner is building an internal illustration of knowledge, a personal interpretation of experience. Learning is thus an active processes on which learning is accomplished on the basis of experience. We construct meaning by making assumptions and interpretations and learn by linking new information to prior knowledge (Bednar et al, 1992).

Constructivism was advocated at the turn of the century by John Dewey. Other advocates Vygotsky and Joseph Bruner (Collins,1991). Social constructivism is based on the theories of Vygotsky . His theory rates the influences of both social and cultural contexts in learning as important. According to Vygotsky , learning is a social and collaborative activity where the teacher acts as a facilitator and the student is responsible for constructing their own understanding in their own mind.

With the focus of the research identified, it is necessary to select an appropriate methodology tho undertake the study.

Quantitative methods of conducting research are used in studies and present them in a comparative fashion. Knowledge and truth are regarded as being external to the individual. Emphasis is placed on extracting patterns and making comparisons (Bell,1999; Cohen and Mannion, 2000). Quantitative research is an objective process used to obtain numerical data.

Critics of the quantitative approach draw attention to the fact the researcher has to stick to the questions and may limit the researcher to unearth social meanings behind the answers to the questionnaire. Peoples attitudes change over time and a survey questionnaire only represent how the participants thinks at the time of the questionnaire.

With qualitative approaches, knowledge is regarded as personal and therefore, relative to certain contexts. It is subjective (Cohen and Mannion, 2000). Qualitative researcher's seek insight rather than statical analysis ( Bell,1999) and is used to obtain peoples attitudes and concepts. Some of the drawbacks qualitatve research is time- consuming and expensive and the analysis of people's replies can be problematic.

The author proposes this research to be primarily a quantitative approach using a survey questionnaire of members of the Academy of Medical Laboratory Science, as it will answer the research question.

In order to evaluate the level of motivation of medical laboratory scientists to participate in CPD , the author has decided to issue a questionnaire by means of an e-mail survey to all current members of the Academy of Medical Laboratory Science the professional body governing medical laboratory scientists.

When utilising a survey questionnaire Bell (1999) stresses the importance of avoiding ambiguity, imprecision and assumption in the questionnaire. In order to do this the questions need to be structured and clear.

In drawing up and administering the questionnaire the author hopes to:

Gain an understanding of why medical laboratory scientists participate in CPD activities.

What types of issues are important to the participants.

What would the participants like so see in future in CPD activities.

This will give the author an idea of the issues and how the participants feel about CPD .

According to Moore (1987), questionnaires are inexpensive and flexible. They can reach a large number of people. They can be designed to provide a degree of anonymity. He also said it is necessary to pilot test questionnaires to ensure that there is no ambiguity and to ensure nothing has been overlooked. Bell (1999) adds that piloting checks if the wording and formatting of the questions will present any difficulties when being analysed. According to Bell (1999) giving questionnaires to individuals can be advantageous. This is because an explanation of purpose of the study can be verbally discussed and response rates can be immediate. However from a logistical perspective this would not be suitable due to the large demographic spread of the employees.

The goal of the survey questionnaire in this case was to obtain the opinions and attitudes of the medical laboratory members to the CPD that they may or may not be engaged in. The use of an e-mail survey was chosen it would easily reach the vast majority of those that the author hopes to survey in a timely fashion.

According to Dobney (2005) on-line surveys can take different formats. For example, they can be pop up web surveys,web based questionnaires or e-mail surveys. E-mail surveys are fast and they can reach the target population at the touch of a button. According to Creative Research Systems (2003), e-mail surveys cost very little and can contain attachments if necessary,

Selwyn and Robson (1998) says that e-mail that by using e-mail surveys a near immediate dialogue between subject and researcher can be arranged if desired. In addition respondents can reply whenever they feel comfortable to do so.

The author recognised that there are inherent limitations in questionnaire or e-mail survey questionnaires. Moore (1987) compares questionnaires with interviews and says that through interviews it is possible to question beneath what may be initially a superficial response. This is not possible with questionnaires.

Creative Research Systems (2003) suggests that one needs to be aware of the threat of multiple responses from one person. It also warns of the dangers of generalisations of findings. Thach (1995) that while you take little time to to send a e-mail survey and it can be deleted by the recipient just as quickly. As Berg and Collins (1995) state people are inundated with e-mails and this may lead to e-mail survey being ignored.

The author proposes that the survey questionnaire will contain a combination of questions, some of which are open ended. The first section of the questionnaire will seek to acquire some particular characteristics of respondents. This will enable the respondents to be analysed by sex, age, grade and laboratory discipline in which they work. The second section of the questionnaire will explore the views of the respondents to CPD.

Members will be initially asked weather or not they think CPD is important.

It would be important to find out although they may be signed up to CPD cycle they might not be actively completing the CPD cycle. The Academy relatively recently ie 1st April 2011 placed all activities on-line system. Previously all submissions were through the traditional paper postal route. This may have alienated some established members and they may find this off putting. How easy is the web site to use for members.It would be interesting to find out what the users perceive as the barriers to using the web site as the traffic on the site appears to be low.

Also what support is available in the workplace for members engaging in CPD? What time if any is allocated to CPD in the work place?

The funding for attending courses has been abolished for the foreseeable future, this may present huge problems for CPD particularly where travel and overnight expenses are involved. However the 'requirement' to undertake CPD can also have the positive effect of assisting professionals in putting pressure on their employer to support them in undertaking activities for their own professional development.

Do users want regular contact just to inform them to keep active on their CPD account. Participants may not be clear what is required of them. What type of feedback would the users require after completing a CPD activity. Feedback is crucial to learning. Feedback is a vital component for both learner and program setting. A key component of formative assessment is that the feedback from the assessment is used to adapt the teaching to the needs of the student ( Black and William, 1998).

Lectures who set the program should receive feedback from the participants of CPD program. Consequently this valuable feedback can be used to modify the teaching and learning activities so that the learning tasks are are meaningful for the participants who partake in CPD. Learners decide what are important based on what is assessed and most learners are "reluctant to put their best efforts into work which is not going to count" (Brown et al, 1997). This has implications for CPD programs that aren't mandatory.

Ethical Statement.

As with all research, it is essential to ensure that the study is carried out with consideration for the participants at all times. At the outset of working with the participants, the nature of the research will be explained in order not to mislead any participants. The participant's right to privacy will be respected at all times.

For these reasons the questionnaire will be accompanied by a covering letter in order to:

Explain the purpose of the questionnaire to the respondents.

Assure the respondents of their anonymity and confidentially of their replies.

Potential Merits of Research.

The Academy of medical laboratory science CPD activities are at a cross-road, with the introduction of statutory registration on the horizon for the allied health professionals. Involvement in CPD will become mandatory for medical laboratory scientists. It is essential at this stage to find out what the members feel about the CPD on-line activities available to them. What do the members need the CPD module to be to help them in their profession life. What is the motivation to engagement and what are the perceived barriers and benefits?

The benefit to our professional practice: The Academy was about to start their own survey to investigate the attitudes of its members to CPD so they are very supportive of this project and very keen to see the results and conclusions.

The benefits to the participants: This survey questionnaire will give members a platform to give feedback about the CPD activities as they are at the moment, and a voice in any change they would like to see in the future CPD activities.

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