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Workplace learning from a socio-cultural perspective: creating developmental space during the general practice clerkship

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      Abstract

      Workplace learning in undergraduate medical education has predominantly been studied from a cognitive perspective, despite its complex contextual characteristics, which influence medical students’ learning experiences in such a way that explanation in terms of knowledge, skills, attitudes and single determinants of instructiveness is unlikely to suffice. There is also a paucity of research which, from a perspective other than the cognitive or descriptive one, investigates student learning in general practice settings, which are often characterised as powerful learning environments. In this study we took a socio-cultural perspective to clarify how students learn during a general practice clerkship and to construct a conceptual framework that captures this type of learning. Our analysis of group interviews with 44 fifth-year undergraduate medical students about their learning experiences in general practice showed that students needed developmental space to be able to learn and develop their professional identity. This space results from the intertwinement of workplace context, personal and professional interactions and emotions such as feeling respected and self-confident. These forces framed students’ participation in patient consultations, conversations with supervisors about consultations and students’ observation of supervisors, thereby determining the opportunities afforded to students to mind their learning. These findings resonate with other conceptual frameworks and learning theories. In order to refine our interpretation, we recommend that further research from a socio-cultural perspective should also explore other aspects of workplace learning in medical education.

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      Most cited references 22

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      Informal learning in the workplace

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        Experience-based learning: a model linking the processes and outcomes of medical students' workplace learning.

        To develop a model linking the processes and outcomes of workplace learning. We synthesised a model from grounded theory analysis of group discussions before and after experimental strengthening of medical students' workplace learning. The research was conducted within a problem-based clinical curriculum with little early workplace experience, involving 24 junior and 12 senior medical students. To reach their ultimate goal of helping patients, medical students must develop 2 qualities. One is practical competence; the other is a state of mind that includes confidence, motivation and a sense of professional identity. These 2 qualities reinforce one another. The core process of clinical workplace learning involves 'participation in practice', which evolves along a spectrum from passive observation to performance. Practitioners help students participate by being both supportive and challenging. The presentation of clear learning objectives and continuous periods of attachment that are as personal to the student(s) and practitioner(s) as possible promote workplace learning. The core condition for clinical workplace learning is 'supported participation', the various outcomes of which are mutually reinforcing and also reinforce students' ability to participate in further practice. This synthesis has 2 important implications for contemporary medical education: any reduction in medical students' participation in clinical practice that results from the patient safety agenda and expanded numbers of medical students is likely to have an adverse effect on learning, and the construct of 'self-directed learning', which our respondents too often found synonymous with 'lack of support', should be applied with very great caution to medical students' learning in clinical workplaces.
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          How can experience in clinical and community settings contribute to early medical education? A BEME systematic review.

          Review period January 1992-December 2001. Final analysis July 2004-January 2005. BACKGROUND AND REVIEW CONTEXT: There has been no rigorous systematic review of the outcomes of early exposure to clinical and community settings in medical education. OBJECTIVES OF REVIEW: Identify published empirical evidence of the effects of early experience in medical education, analyse it, and synthesize conclusions from it. Identify the strengths and limitations of the research effort to date, and identify objectives for future research. Ovid search of: BEI, ERIC, Medline, CINAHL and EMBASE Additional electronic searches of: Psychinfo, Timelit, EBM reviews, SIGLE, and the Cochrane databases. Hand-searches of:Medical Education, Medical Teacher, Academic Medicine, Teaching and Learning in Medicine, Advances in Health Sciences Education, Journal of Educational Psychology. Authentic (real as opposed to simulated) human contact in a social or clinical context that enhances learning of health, illness and/or disease, and the role of the health professional. Early: What would traditionally have been regarded as the preclinical phase, usually the first 2 years. Inclusions: All empirical studies (verifiable, observational data) of early experience in the basic education of health professionals, whatever their design or methodology, including papers not in English. Evidence from other health care professions that could be applied to medicine was included. Not empirical; not early; post-basic; simulated rather than 'authentic' experience. Careful validation of selection processes. Coding by two reviewers onto an extensively modified version of the standard BEME coding sheet. Accumulation into an Access database. Secondary coding and synthesis of an interpretation. A total of 73 studies met the selection criteria and yielded 277 educational outcomes; 116 of those outcomes (from 38 studies) were rated strong and important enough to include in a narrative synthesis of results; 76% of those outcomes were from descriptive studies and 24% from comparative studies. Early experience motivated and satisfied students of the health professions and helped them acclimatize to clinical environments, develop professionally, interact with patients with more confidence and less stress, develop self-reflection and appraisal skill, and develop a professional identity. It strengthened their learning and made it more real and relevant to clinical practice. It helped students learn about the structure and function of the healthcare system, and about preventive care and the role of health professionals. It supported the learning of both biomedical and behavioural/social sciences and helped students acquire communication and basic clinical skills. There were outcomes for beneficiaries other than students, including teachers, patients, populations, organizations and specialties. Early experience increased recruitment to primary care/rural medical practice, though mainly in US studies which introduced it for that specific purpose as part of a complex intervention. Early experience helps medical students socialize to their chosen profession. It helps them acquire a range of subject matter and makes their learning more real and relevant. It has potential benefits for other stakeholders, notably teachers and patients. It can influence career choices.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
            [2 ]Department of General Practice, Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
            [3 ]The Netherlands Health Care Inspectorate, ‘s Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
            [4 ]Institute for Medical Education, Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
            [5 ]Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, VUmc Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
            Contributors
            +31-43-3885721 , +31-43-3885779 , j.vanderzwet@educ.unimaas.nl
            Journal
            Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract
            Advances in Health Sciences Education
            Springer Netherlands (Dordrecht )
            1382-4996
            1573-1677
            28 December 2010
            28 December 2010
            August 2011
            : 16
            : 3
            : 359-373
            3139899
            21188514
            9268
            10.1007/s10459-010-9268-x
            © The Author(s) 2010
            Categories
            Article
            Custom metadata
            © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

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