Year

2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Education

Abstract

The effects of a critical learning experience were journalled by 218 students in a bachelor of nursing program from 1993 to 1999. The learning experience in their final year of study was a simulation laced with political and personal challenges to mimic pressures found in contemporary health industry environments where nurses practice. Conceived through a framework of developmental theory and processes, this teaching and learning approach endorses attributes of courage, daring and strategic action as part of the nursing role. Students were able to experience the effects of a competitive, professional environment where principles of community development were incorporated into the content, learning and assessment methods to promote development of an image of themselves as competent, professional people. The result is a cohort of graduate nurses who have emerged from their studies aware of political, bureaucratic and personal factors that establish and preserve credible leaders in the health system. Most who experienced the simulation claim to have gained sufficient self-confidence to have input into decisions that affect their personal and professional goals. Incorporating such a large amount of data required an analytical approach consisting of multiple levels of configuring and re-configuring the narrative contained in student journals. An initial macro analysis of all data was achieved through conceptual mapping that traced the various pathways students took as they moved through individual learning challenges. Further macro analysis involved clustering journal data into major themes and, from there, particular themes elucidated the effects of the learning experience. Further analysis focused on understanding how students perceived the bureaucratic, political and personal aspects of leadership experiences leading to the formation of particular positions about learning, leadership and group work. At the micro level, certain students' journals were more closely examined in terms of values and emotions experienced in the simulation and to ensure that a range of voices are heard, including my own reflective and reflexive contribution to the learning and research process, regarding the value of the learning experience. Analysis of the student journals reveals that leadership can be learned at the undergraduate level in a way that can have a personally transforming effect. These undergraduate students of nursing learned many political, bureaucratic and personal skills that will equip them to become competent leaders as well as proficient clinicians, within the health system.

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