This essay will discuss why understanding learning styles is useful to student nurses. In addition, I will discuss my own dominate learning styles, paying attention to my strengths and weaknesses, also identifying areas where it is necessary for me to improve my weaker learning style, and how I can build on this for the future development. Within nursing there are lots of different study and learning methods available to us. A persons learning styles or main process of learning is crucial to their development and knowledge base.
Currently there are various learning styles each one differ in terms of a person’s approach to learning. However I feel that these learning styles are essential to making learning more effective. “Learning styles is defined as the composition of cognitive, affective and psychological behaviour that serves as an indicator of how an individual perceives, interacts with and responds to the learning environment. There are numerous definitions to the perspective of learning style” (Keefe, 1979). “Learning styles have been an aid to reflection as it helps nurses to reflect appropriately on the care of the patients.
Without learning styles for nursing students, it can be quite challenging to reflect on a situation as reflection stages involve thinking and learning in order to produce a better outcome”(O’Carroll & Park, 2007). Understanding of their learning styles will enable student nurses to stay up to date professionally and help improve co-operation among their colleagues. Furthermore, understanding each style has an advantage and disadvantage. Knowing their learning styles will expand them as a person and help them to work and learn more effectively and more efficiently.
Understanding of learning styles as a student nurse will let them learn their way through their own best strategies. We all have different personalities, so everyone has different ways of learning. We do not usually choose the type of activities that best suits us because we are unaware that some methods suit us and some do not (Jasper, 2003). According to Jasper (2003) “Most of the learning that we are aware takes place in a formal learning situation where teaching and learning methods are not chosen by us but are imposed by other such as teachers, mentors and lecturers” (p. 4).
Having an understanding of learning styles will be useful to student nurses as it allows them to be successful in their nursing degree, as well as their clinical placement. Student nurses will also be able to focus on areas that needs improving by identifying their strengths and weakness, in areas so that they can get more out of their education pathway and to be able to deliver a high standard of care to their patients. “The individual learning has both strengths and weaknesses depending on what is to be learnt and how” (Heffler, 2001).
According to Honey and Mumford learning styles (2006), we are all the product of our own learning, including everything we know, everything we do, everything we believe and everything we have learnt. “No-one learns completely in just one style, we all tend to fall under the one descriptor and borrow characteristics from the others” (Kolb, 1984). We learn everyday sometimes without actually realising, this is known as passive learning. In the case of being a student nurse frequent exposure can help learn important things, such as symptoms of illness that are often found on a ward or community care.
However, one of the problems with this, is that a student nurse may not understand why this has occurred. Likewise if a student nurse copies the skills performed by a more experience nurse she is less likely to be able to modify the skills when a new or slightly different situation happens. Passive learning is part of life, but to simply copy the behaviours of our colleagues is not enough to demonstrate professional practice or understanding. Active learning however is when a nurse sets out to understand the concepts behind the principles and skills that we are required to know.
As a nurse it is extremely important that an extensive amount of knowledge is gained. Nursing is an ever-changing profession, every day we learn more about the human body and how it functions, this is why understanding your learning style is essential(McManus, 2001). Some studies suggest that identification of learning strategies best suited for different learning styles may increase the learning effectiveness of each individual student and will increase student adaptive flexibility to alter their learning styles to respond to the learning demand of specific environment (Carnell et al, 2000).
In Honey & Mumford questionnaire (2006), the authors identifies four learning styles which are Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. I found that after I had completed the questionnaire my most dominant learning style is a theorist. The additional answers to the questionnaire also showed reflector as a high moderate learning preference. While both activist and pragmatist indicated a low score of my learning preference. Learners predominantly possess different strengths of learning preferences; therefore being dominant in one area does not ultimately imply weakness in the other areas” (Alghasham, 2012). Being a theorist according to Honey questionnaire I learn easily from practical activities where I have had the opportunity to ask questions. The activities that allow a theorist to benefit from the learning process for me as a student nurse are situations where there is a chance to understand the concept, ideas, events, situations and outcomes.
For example, being a theorist allows me to learn best by participating in classroom activities and having effective communication skills enables me to seek for information by asking questions from others participating students. “Conversely, the difficulty here is in the case where there are activities without background information or apparent purpose which will impair my learning and where I feel myself out of tune with other participants, for example when with lots of activist or people of lower intellectual competence” (Honey & Mumford, 1986).
Evaluating my learning style as an activist has indicated a low moderate. This is one of my weakest learning styles, improving my ability will enable me to experience new skills by working as an individual. I will have to develop the aspect of my weaker style to be able to support my learning on this nursing degree and also in my career as a nurse by being able to learn from new experiences and reflecting on it, It also will prepared me to take risk by going outside my comfort zone when experimenting with new or unfamiliar activities.
According to Heidari and Galvin (2003) activist learner is an action learning where the learner becomes independent in the learning process thereby contributing to the team. For this to be achieved increasing the independent learning and reduce my day to day routine work which In this case action plan requiring daily tasks will be applied. Honey and Mumford (1986) expressed a pragmatist learner learns best through existing activities that allows the individual to try out. This way the learner has opportunity to practice what they have learnt.
Being a pragmatist enable me to take part in clinical activities by following instructions given to me by my mentors or nurses on my placement, who had the theoretical and practical experience to be able to guide me. For example, during my second placement I had the opportunities to practice under supervision on how to take blood sugars levels and administered insulin, depending on blood sugar levels. This level of guidance and praise when I did it correctly really helped build my self-confidence.
However, Honey & Mumford (2000) found that it can be difficult for the learner in situations where the learner cannot see significant reward from the activities. Fortunately in my case, I was told what I did well and ways in which I could improve next time, there encouragement produce a comfortable environment for me to be able to ask questions and it enable me to have a better understanding of what I was doing and why. “Reflector as an individual who has the experiences of standing back and looking at a situation from different perspective” (Jasper, 2003).
Having a high score as a reflector in the questionnaire, shows I enjoy activities which involve watching, observing and listening to people. It also shows that I like to think about what has happened or learnt by relating new ideas or information to the past experience and then to examine them (Howatson-Jones, 2010). “Learning as a reflector will enables me as a student nurse to be thoughtful and consider all possible areas and implications of obtaining detailed information before making decision” (Honey & Mumford, 1986).
In conclusion learning style is extremely relevant for student nurses because it allows them to reflect on the why, how and when? It has also shown me my dominant learning style and also identify my weaker style which has enabled me to put an action plan in place to help me learn from a wide variety of experiences and help me achieve a high standard of care to my patients now and in future. I have gained awareness about the ways in which I approach life, my attitude, beliefs and how I will use all these to maximise my learning potential throughout my course and while out in my clinical placement.