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The aim of this essay is to discuss why learning styles is useful to student nurses using literatures and relevant resources. My dominant learning style will be discussed using the Honey (2006) learning style questionnaire and also how an aspect of my weaker style will be developed while on the nursing programme.
Learning involves the processing of information and interpreting or re-enacting what has been learnt through cognitive abilities. This could be learning a new skill such as how to support patients when they are going through an emotional turmoil and using it to manage a situation when individual encounters it. According to Honey (2006), learning is "an internal process where information taken in by your senses is processed by your brain" (p. 1). For example, new information are taken in by the brain through our senses or which are transported by neurons and get stored into our memory bank which can be used whenever we are in need of it in the future.
What influences how a person learns is the type of learner the individual is, this comes into learning styles as it is how individuals are able to absorb information more effectively; as learning styles refer to the variations in your ability to take in as well as assimilate information (Ldpride.net, 2008). For example a student nurse finding it hard to understand a particular topic during lectures because of the way it is being taught.
Understanding of one's learning style is useful as it influences the way in which student nurses achieve their goals and objectives in an educational programme (Rassool and Rawaf, 2008). This is because it helps them acknowledge where their strengths and weaknesses lie in their learning, aiding them to have a better understanding of themselves as individual learners. For example, what they are capable of achieving giving them the opportunity to focus on their weaknesses; the barriers that are affecting the way in which they learn, so that they can make the required changes they need to improve their weaker learning to enhance their ability of achieving tasks to their full potential (Riding and Rayner, 1998). This also means that student nurses are able to learn in ways that they understand as this allows them to learn using their own strategies to make learning much efficient and at ease for them.
When student nurses have an understanding of what their individual learning preference comprise, this has been known to in effect boost their working and learning performance academically in a course (Hawk and Shah, 2007). So for a student nurse it helps to motivates and encourage them by making them become more confident in their work and easier for them to accomplish tasks even though they may be in a different environment other than the classroom. This support a student nurse in becoming an all-round learner as they are versatile in learning from a wide variety of different experiences (Honey and Mumford,1992), for example when working in a health care setting during placement with different individuals.
Also, it becomes easier for them to learn because they are able to apply their individual learning style's strategies by way of putting them in a clear pathway on how they can achieve their goals, such as researching about a topic beforehand, active listening or able to think on their feet. This makes the situation they are in less stressful, confusing and frustrating for them to learn and acquire new skills and obtaining knowledge.
When student nurses recognize or gain awareness of their learning styles, it will automatically help them achieve their potential by enabling them to improve on their own learning in the classroom and also during placement. This is because the nursing programme which consists of both theory and practical assessment. Kolb (1984) stated that learning style is important for individuals to work effectively in action oriented careers which in this case is nursing. So student nurses need to understand how best they can learn by gaining new skills and knowledge through practical experiences to prepare them when they become qualified so that they are competent in providing care for different patients with different needs.
In the Honey and Mumford's (2006) learning styles questionnaire, they identified four learning styles that he suggested individuals learn most successfully when they are applied in any learning conditions.
These four individual learning styles are; activists who are individuals who are spontaneous as they like to think on their feet, participate in any activity and have fun as they are known to like being at the centre of attention. Reflectors are people who like to think things through before acting upon rather than acting on impulse, carryout out thorough research and evaluate to be prepared. Theorists like to have clear and structured objectives as they are perfectionist with aims and goals of what they want to achieve. Finally, pragmatists are learners who learn by doing practical as they prefer activities to be real, for example a pragmatist student nurse would enjoying working in a health care setting in placement instead of being in lectures or seminars.
According to Honey's (2006) learning style questionnaire, my preferred dominant learning style was a reflector which I strongly agreed upon, as I am the type of learner who likes to listen and observe in activities rather than be at the centre of attention. I tend to prefer a quiet/less noisy environment so that I am able to think clearly about what I have to say or discus to ensure that what I am saying is right and makes sense. I am also the type of learner who learns by reflecting on previous experiences so that I know how I can improve and make changes if I encounter the same situation in the future.
An advantage of my learning style is that during my first clinical placement as a student nurse, I was able to actively listen to patients as this created awareness in the patients that they have been heard and understood (Van Ooijen & Charnock, 1994, cited in Dawn, 2003) while observing patients. I also read up on patients' personal information before commencing care, to prepare myself which is essential when caring for patients. However, because I take time to process information to make sense of them, it sometimes delays my response or action which slows my ability to carry out task on time.
My weaker learning style was activist, for which I will need to develop to support my learning on this programme. To develop this weaker style, I need to go beyond my comfort zone of being a reflector by volunteering myself to become a leader in a group, allowing me to have the chance to contribute early in group discussions during lectures.
Developing my weaker style will allow me to alternate between different learning strategies in different environments and situations, which when working with other professionals as a qualified nurse, I might up-hold the role as a leader within a group. For example, working with other professionals to create a care plan for a particular patient that they may require by appointing the appropriate professionals and ensuring the right care is given.
Another way I can improve my weaker style is to learn how to think on my feet without wasting time as there may be a phase during the programme, especially during placement I may be thrown into a challenging task where my dominant learning style cannot be used, for this I believe being an activist learner becomes useful as I will have to be working spontaneously by being able to think on my feet and work efficiently while under pressure as I have to make quick decisions not having time for reflection.
Overall I have gained an understanding of what type of learner I am, which has motivated and build up my confidence utilising me to be able to managing challenges (Jasper2003) by adapting my own learning methods into different learning situations.
Dawn, F. (2003). Councelling skills for nurses, midwives and health visitors. Maidenhead. Open University press.
This book was written for nurses, midwives and health visitors to explain how they can facilitate counselling to their patients. It highlights some of the skills these professionals need to have when providing care for people who may have emotional needs, such as communication, being able to listen accurately, reflection, inter-professional skills and being able to evaluate on-going processes. This is so that health professionals are equipped to be able to provide a holistic care for their patients by giving them support which helps to create a patient and professional relationship. The book also highlighted the ethical issues associated with professionals especially with nurses in building a relation different patients as it can sometimes go outside professional boundaries.
Honey, P. (2006). The learning styles questionnaire: 40-item version. Coventry. Peter Honey Publications.
The author identified four learning styles preferences that individuals can learn by, which are activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists. The author also went on to thoroughly identify the characteristics of each of these learners describing the best conditions the learners are able to learn best, such as a pragmatists being able to learn through practical exercise (pp. 17-18). A strength of this book is that it gives a very detailed explanation that makes it easy for the readers to read and understand. Another positive aspect of this book is that the examples given are linked to real life situations which individuals are able to relate to.
Jasper, M. (2003). Beginning reflective practice. Cheltenham. Nelson Thornes Ltd.
This book focuses on the concept of reflective practice and what students are trying to achieve in developing strategies for their own dominant learning from previous experience, to help them feel confident in their own learning. This book only gave a vague explanation of learning style, only focusing on reflective practice. However the positive aspect of this book is that it explains and guide students on how they can use their learning style through reflection in practice to enable them to do things that is beyond their comfort zone.
Ldpride Learning Styles. (2008). Understanding your learning styles. Retrieved January 7, 2013, from http://www.ldpride.net/Understanding-Learning-Styles.pdf.
This article discuses about how important it is for learners to understand their particular learning styles, in order for them to perform better in the classroom by guiding them through the process of how they can tackle tasks that they may encounter difficulties in so that it becomes easier for them to achieve it. A disappointing aspect of this article is that, it only discusses about the old model of learning styles rather than using the current learning style a models which creates confusion as some readers may not understand or have an idea of how they can apply them to their learning.
Rassool, G. H. & Rawaf, S. (2008). The influence of learning style preference on undergraduate nursing students on educational outcomes in substance use education. Nursing Education in Practice, 8(5), 306-314.
The journal was very informative and helpful because it only focused on nursing students and their learning. It discussed how learning styles can influence the way in which students learn and perform academically in the nursing education. The authors explained how effective learning styles are when students understand their learning preferences using the Honey and Mumford (1992) learning style questionnaire. They conducted a study on students examining their attitude to their learning and highlighting the main point that learning styles are important in improving students' performance by helping them achieve their maximum potential.
Riding, R. & Rayner, S. (1998). Cognitive styles and learning strategies: Understanding style differences in learning and behaviour. London. David Fulton Publishers Ltd.
This book reflect, assess and provides an insight into ways learning styles, containing information into how students' personal and professional behaviour can be enhanced. For which the authors came up with two models of learning: cognitive styles (the behaviour of the individual) and learning strategies (the individual's learning preference). Explaining the correlation between the two models, how one model can be affected when the other is not used appropriately. This book is mainly directed to teachers and educators so that they too can understand how their way of delivering lessons can affect the way students learn.