Earlier this month the HEA health and social care team hosted the inaugural meeting of the Practice Education Special Interest Group. The day was focused on the use of practice learning in the development of health and social care professionals. However during the day we exposed a number of universal issues that carry weight in determining the success of education across the disciplines.
So our #HEAchat on Wednesday 26th April 2017 8pmGMT will try to highlight the variety of formats, challenges and solutions people are working with when providing practice learning opportunities for their students.
So what do we mean by practice learning or placement education? To capture the diversity of learning experiences offered across the disciplines- let’s go wide with our interpretation and for the chat let’s think about learning that is:
- Happening outside of the university walls and is facilitated by an external expert
- Designed to relate to some form of professional development linked to a particular practice/ workplace
- Focused on the learner performing in a workplace
You can’t help thinking of how practice learning taps into Meyer and Land’s (2005) notion of threshold concepts. The idea of transformative learning experiences which activate the individual’s stepping over a knowledge threshold- entering a portal! Just think of the debriefing sessions you have be involved in when students return from their placements. Often it is not a smooth experience but something in them has changed. At the very least they have engaged in the process of becoming the professional by adopting the cultural and linguistic aspects within that workplace.
There is no doubt that this transformative promise is a means to distinguish one programme from another; the competitive edge in the marketing of programmes. It will be interesting to see how practice learning features within the narrative part of the teaching excellence framework. The way this learning opportunity is considered value-added, and its arguable link to employability.
Obviously with a variety of purposes comes a variety of formats of practice learning across the disciplines. Formats have also been steered by tradition, professional body requirements and the market place defining employment. Many programmes offer blocks of practice learning throughout the phases of the programme. Some programmes offer the sandwich format- whereby the practice learning is a full year in addition to the university-based learning. Furthermore some programmes have a looser format and practice learning is offered as part of a module or singular instances across the university timetable. Format isn’t just about timetabling but rather the way the practice learning is characterised within the programme. How much co-production of the practice learning is undertaken by employers and students? Is the practice learning opportunity formalised and structured or is there an element of volition? How does the practice learning element integrate itself with the more traditional delivery formats within the curricula? What journey has practice learning taken within your discipline- how has it developed over the years and where might it be in 5 years’ time?
So what learning and teaching challenges arise? Here’s just a few key themes that crop up during the practice learning conversation.
- Developing and sustaining practice partnerships. With two often different worlds coming together careful consideration is needed to establish the remit and responsibilities for the learning experience. This includes sharing language and processes between the workplace and the university.
- The tension between providing authenticity of experience within a safe learning environment
- What and how are we assessing? Is this about assessing the experience, the development of professional values, the mastery of skills or all of the above? What is the silver bullet in practice learning assessment? Who is involved and how do you reach a consensus?
- Integration between university learning and real life learning not only in terms of fitting these experiences within the full curricula but ensuring that learning is harvested and transformative.
Guess what, the solutions are for the chat! We would like to hear about your practice learning experiences and the pedagogic decisions you have made along the way. The #HEAchat will give us an opportunity to share how practice learning is experienced by students across the subject areas. Maybe you have designed out some of the challenges listed above- the chat is a great way of sharing and celebrating that. Maybe you have other challenges you would like to air and seek help from #HEAchat #LTHEchat friends. Whatever your interest in practice learning join the #HEAchat #LTHEchat on 26th April 8pm GMT.
To whet your appetite for #HEAchat:
- Here’s a link to some practice learning resources and materials from the HEA knowledge Hub click here
- We ran joint chat with the College of Occupational Therapy via WeAHPs. Here’s a link to the chat archive click here
Meyer, J.H.F. and Land, R. (2005) Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning, Higher Education, 49 (3), 373-388.