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Challenging the alien concept - scientists reflect.
The concept of reflective practice is often heralded as good practice and a positive sign of critical enquiry and life long learning among health care professionals. Embraced by the nursing profession in the 1990s, there is ample evidence of its promotion in nursing education in the UK.
However, the need for creativity became apparent for students undertaking the Schools 4 year part time vocational BSc Clinical Physiology/Technology programme, which in addition to university approval has award approval of the corresponding evolving professional bodies. Students, who are normally science graduates before embarking on this degree programme, were faced with the challenge of embracing and engaging in reflective practice to comply with the requirements of their professional bodies. Without prior knowledge or experience of this and little evidence of it occurring in their workplace, by their mentors or managers, expressions of frustration, denial and resistance were common in group tutorials. It became apparent that little guidance was available from the professional bodies, despite their requiring evidence of reflection in assessment criteria. Its inclusion in clinical workbooks seemed to be an attempt to mirror the curricula and recommendations of other established health care professional groups.
Efforts by teaching staff to promote reflection using the body of examples from nursing literature did not result in any improvement in its perceived value to this group of students, for whom reflection was an alien concept, not being grounded in scientific practice. Models commonly adopted by nurses which explore feelings were particularly treated with derision.
Inspired originally by the work of Donald Schon (Schon, D. A., 1987, Educating the Reflective Practitioner, John Wiley & Sons, San Franscisco)
who explored and developed the potential for using reflection in science and engineering groups, the author, through this paper, will explore the challenge faced by teachers and students in tackling this difficult conceptual issue. She will do this by identifying creative solutions and practical, relevant applications of reflection, introduced and sustained within the workplace where, it is hoped, introduction to this experience will enhance the practice of those mentors and managers who have hitherto avoided it.