This piece of writing is designed to explore how I learn as a student Radiographer and how this could potentially affect the way I teach future Radiographers upon graduation. This will allow me to understand, rethink and improve my methods of teaching that will benefit and not hinder learning of the students I would be teaching.
Learning is all about new skills and new information, through purposeful change or through new experiences (Reece and Walker, 2003). Kolb’s experiential learning theory was designed in order to stage learning and understand how people perceived and processed new knowledge. Kolb created a learning cycle that consisted of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation which could be entered at any point in response to a learning activity depending on the individual preference (Kolb and Kolb, 2005).
According to Honey and Mumford (1992) learners can be placed into four categories, Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. The usual outcome is that learners are a part of all four but dominate more in one. It is even possible to adapt to different learning styles to cope with different learning situations (Fatt, 2000).
In order to discover how I perceive challenges, interact with them and respond to them it is important to outline what my learning style is as people can perceive learning experiences in many different ways. Having completed the structured approach to learning styles questionnaire, it shows that I dominate more in the reflective learning style and closely followed by theorist (see appendix 2). As a reflective learner I tend to reflect on my experiences and think hard before finishing any work. I consider any implications before the activity and like to listen to and observe other people before doing it myself (Honey and Mumford, 1992) and this is exactly how I learn in practice and everyday life.
This is not the ideal type of learning in some situations especially in practice. As stated above reflectors learn better when they can be allowed to stand back and observe, allowed to think, prepare, then review what has happened afterwards. An example of when this can be detrimental to reflective learners is when radiographers have to modify their technique for plain film examinations. I cannot begin to modify a technique until I have seen it being performed; this is also true of learning how to use radiographic equipment which will be a disadvantage for when I qualify in the fact I would need to consider the technique for a while before doing it. In a busy department reflective learning cannot always happen, this type of learning takes time which is not always possible when there are time constraints and when staff are very busy. Another problem that could occur is that staff may think that the student does not want to participate or learn and that they are shying away but in reality the student wants to observe something before they participate which is not the fault of the student. In clinical practice this learning style can actually be a learning barrier to students and will take longer to learn new experiences. Although sometimes in a busy environment, just being able to observe from afar is sometimes more helpful to the reflective learner. Other barriers to learning for reflectors in practice is past negative experiences, lack of time within a busy environment, lack of support from the radiographers, lack of clear intent of what the learner is supposed to be doing, high expectations of knowledge and technique and being within a hostile environment (Downie and Basford, 2003). These barriers can prevent reflection so this learning activity will remain negatively in the reflective learners mind (Downie and Basford, 2003). But being in a clinical environment is still the best way to learn such a skill as radiography and this will still benefit reflective learners and indeed all learners despite the few barriers that exist (Gopee, 2008).
The way reflectors learn and the way they teach will more than likely be similar. Honey and Mumford (1992) suggest that reflectors will focus more on observations and thorough review. They will suggest ways of observing examinations and which examinations to watch, discuss what could occur and go over the results, provide feedback and careful responses and advise the learner on how to prepare for activities. In a recent tutorial with four first years myself and two other third year students discussed anatomy and the evaluation of radiographs. I think I did teach as a reflective learner by not picking on one student and allowing them to call out the anatomy and critique that they knew; I suggested ways to prepare them and considered my responses before answering. There will be implications for this type of teaching in the future for the learner as this is a more careful approach to learning. Reflectors will not encourage learning in unexpected, unplanned or risky situations or provide immediate answers (Honey and Mumford, 1992). This teaching experience will be detrimental to some learner’s experiences in practice and they will pursue a better way of learning.
Understanding how the student learns will enable the teacher to take on a certain teaching technique and preference (Reece and Walker, 2003) so they suggest that teachers can take on a more blended approach to teaching and assist more than one learner with different learning styles. I believe I could alter my teaching type to suit some learning styles as having one way of teaching may not always be practical in placement. Being a competent healthcare professional is the most important aspect for teaching in clinical so allowing for the learners style will help in that situation and create competence (Gopee, 2008) and also for learning to be improved, the student must be a part of a process that allows learning to progress and be able to receive constructive feedback (Kolb and Kolb, 2005).
When thinking about areas in the future that I could improve upon to help students, it is important to have an attitude that is comfortable for me as a teacher. In the X-ray department for example, whether allowing learners to watch first or to encourage them to go ahead and then ask for help would be determined by the learner as the latter will be an adaptation of my teaching as I would encourage observation at first especially with first year students. But adaptation as mentioned earlier can be beneficial for the student of a more hands on learning style and once confident in this way of teaching, will help me to adapt to any learning style (Reece and Walker, 2003). I would ask the student how they learn to help the teaching process as I think removing them from their comfort zone will be detrimental to reflective learning. Also spending time with the student explaining for example techniques or going over anatomy during an examination can be a disadvantage due to workload but I would always encourage the learner to come into the room and to watch and listen as discouraging learning is not what we as radiographers should be doing. I also think that having a way of recognizing when learning is not occurring is good. Students sometimes will not tell anyone that they do not understand something that they think they should know and being a reflective learner I could spend time explaining and preparing them. As a newly qualified radiographer I would like to think also that students would be more relaxed in asking me questions as I would still be able to associate myself with them. I think the majority of reflective teaching would be carried out on first year students with no experience. Second and third year students will be confident in many examinations and will want to carry on with the examination but I would still find the time to feedback and explain anything that needed clarifying.
Gopee (2008) suggests that reflective learning of an activity must create knowledge. So any X-ray as a first year or a new modification of technique as a third year is a critical incident that will then be reflected upon and as this is their future career, learning barriers should be avoided as much as possible.
Reflecting back on my learning style has enabled me to understand how I learn and how this affects my time at placement. This would affect my teaching upon graduation in a positive way because I am more prepared of how I would deal with teaching situations and knowing that I should sometimes adapt my teaching techniques for different situations. Even with the adaptation of my teaching, if it is possible I could influence and pass over knowledge from my reflective teaching to a reflective learner in a positive way that creates learning then I have succeeded in being a part of creating a competent healthcare professional.