Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Creating a Culture of Authentic Learning within Nurse Education

Catherine Best
Email: catherine.best23@gmail.com


Higher education environments encourage learning through a plethora of systems and structures; such structures define what is taught and how, and therefore ultimately determine the type of knowledge gained (Snowden and Halsall, 2014). Meeting the needs of 21st Century learners however, presents educators with a significant challenge (Iucu and Marin, 2014). For today’s learners are more likely to be motivated by learning new concepts and skills, and being prepared to work in a variety of situations relevant to their professional lives; a process considered external to academia (Iucu and Marin, 2014).

Within contemporary nurse education, in order to correct this problem, adopting a more constructivism approach to learning has been encouraged (Ellis, 2016). This approach enabling learners to effectively engage in knowledge discovery by the ‘working through’ of problems that arise within practice (Ellis, 2016). A process it could be argued encourages authentic learning.

The idea of authentic learning, has emerged as a result of the disconnect that has occurred between real life experience and education and the concern raised as to how this can be remedied Karakaş-Özür and Duman (2019). Within this concept is the importance of an authentic learning strategy, the aim of which is to bring real world themes and learners together. Furthermore, adopting an authentic approach to learning has the potential to motivate learners, with an emphasis now being placed on the importance of self-directed (van Rensburg and Botma 2015) and self-determined or heutagogical learning (Kenyon and Hase, 2013).

Heutagogy, emphasises the importance of how learners prefer to learn, rather than on what is being taught (Kenyon and Hase, 2013). This position affirms Halsall et al. (2016) offers a paradigm for scholarship that harnesses and effectively supports the dynamic and complex notion of self-determined learning; providing an approach to education congruent with the demands of modern-day society.

Self-directed learners are able to identify personal learning needs, develop and implement a structured approach to learning and ultimately become adept in monitoring own progress (van Rensburg and Botma, 2015). Furthermore, self-determined learners are considered to be highly autonomous, the emphasis being on learner capacity and capability; the goal of which is to equip learners for the complexities of latter-day work (Blaschke, 2012).

One way in which nurses can channel professional learning is through reflective practice and portfolio development a key requirement of revalidation (NMC, 2015).

Reflexivity v Reflective Practice

In his work on transformative and reflexive learning, Arvanitis, (2017) argues that modern-day educationalists need to develop a more epistemological approach to learning, one which is based on ‘professional knowing and action’ requiring educationalists to develop a greater reflexive approach.

Definitions abound as to the meaning of reflexivity and is often synonymously used with the term, reflective practice, creating what Archer (2010) calls ‘fuzzy borders’. Reflexivity defined by Archer (2010) is the ability to consider self in relation to social and cultural contexts and vice versa; reflexive internal actions considered the means by which the individual can contemplate their next steps, which in turn has the capacity to allow new knowledge and practices to emerge. Situated within nursing practice reflexivity it could be argued is the process whereby nurses seek to locate themselves within their own professional experiences, and are thus able to effectively learn from them.

Furthermore, today’s business leaders and educational organisations want the inception of educational policies that have the capacity to support the ‘development of broad transferrable skills and knowledge’ and in so doing create a deeper level of learning (Goldman and Pellegrino, 2015).

According to Graham and Johns, (2019) intellectual discourse extols the importance of reflection as being a learning strategy, by which professional practice can be improved. Such strategies they argue, emphasise the importance of reflective practice. Through such strategies, reflection can be considered a purposeful learning tool enabling the practitioner to look beyond their experience and in so doing gain useful insight into the way in which things can be done better using directed future development (Graham and Johns 2019).

Furthermore, reflective practice argues Chinn and Kramer, (2018) is a process that leads to an understanding about the rationale of one’s own actions and in so doing has the potential to improve one’s practice and ‘contribute to personal growth’.

It could be argued therefore that reflection with its emphasis on real life experiences and ‘guided future development’ is indeed a true expression of authentic learning.


Situated within modern-day educational systems is a diverse range of educational theories, curricula design, education programmes and teaching strategies (Crawford, 2019). In order to effectively research these increasingly complex issues requires an equally diverse range of methodologies that have the capacity to contribute to such research (Crawford, 2019). This may present a particular challenge to educationalists as they continue to weather the storm of student expectations, university policies and government expectations.

Kelsey and Hayes (2015) in their work on reflective practice, postulate words of encouragement. In order to meet the expanding demands placed upon nurse education, the increasing expectations of learners and the growing needs of an expanding global society, nurse educationalists who understand the importance of learners ‘learning how to learn’ have the potential, through their actions, to build a workforce that takes responsibility for its development and in so doing can change the future of nurse education for the better.


Archer, M.S. (2010). Introduction: The reflexive re-turn. In Archer, M.S. ed. Conversations about reflexivity. London: Routledge, pp. 1-14.

Arvanitis, E. (2017) Preservice teacher education: Towards a transformative and reflexive learning Global Studies of Childhood pp. 1–17.

Blaschke, L.M. (2012) Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2087 Accessed 23 March 2018.

Chinn, P.L. and Kramer, M.K. (2018) Knowledge Development in Nursing. Theory and Process. 10th ed. St Louis, Missouri: Elsevier.

Crawford, R. (2019) Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis in music education research: An authentic analysis system for investigating authentic learning and teaching practice. International Journal of Music Education 37(3) pp. 454–475

Ellis, D.M. (2016) The role of nurse educators' self-perception and beliefs in the use of learner-centered teaching in the classroom. Nurse Education in Practice, 16 pp.66-70. http://dx. doi.org/10.1016/j.nepr.2015.08.011.

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Graham, M.M. and Johns, C. (2019) Becoming student kind: A nurse educator′s reflexive narrative inquiry. Nurse Education in Practice, 39 pp. 111-116

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Kelsey, C. and Hayes, S (2015) Frameworks and Models Problematising Reflective Practice. Nurse Education in Practice 15 (6), 393-396.

Kenyon C and Hase, S (2013) Heutagogy Fundamentals. In: Hase, S and Kenyon C. (editors). Self-determined Learning. Heutagogy in action. London: Bloomsbury, 7-38.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2015) Revalidation How to revalidate with the NMC Requirements for renewing your registration. London: NMC.

Snowden, M and Halsall, J. (2014) Community Development: A Shift in Thinking Towards Heutagogy. International Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Comparative Studies 1 (3), pp. 81­91

Van Rensburg, G.H. and Botma, Y. (2015) Bridging the gap between self-directed learning of nurse educators and effective student support. Curationis 38 (2), pp.1-7 http://www.curationis.org.za doi:10.4102/curationis.v38i2.1503

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