Transitions in reflective practice: exploring student development and preferred methods of engagement
Aim: Health-care professional students are required to demonstrate their reflective practice skills during their degree training programme. Online and digital technologies are increasingly being used to support this skill development. Our study aimed to explore whether different technology-based methods supported student growth and skill development in reflective practice at separate developmental time points (novice and competent).
Methods: Third- (n = 23) and fourth-year undergraduate dietetic students (n = 22) from a single university were cross-sectionally surveyed via an online anonymous questionnaire at the end of the academic year. The mixed methods survey of 37 questions investigated the student experience of different reflective practice activities, their effect on a student's ability to self-reflect and whether using them aided a student's perceived transition towards becoming a competent dietitian. The data analysis included brief thematic enquiry, descriptive and independent t-test statistical examination.
Results: Differences emerged in the way students engaged in reflection over time. Fourth-year students preferred to use more independent methods such as e-journaling (fourth- vs third-year students, P = 0.003) and engaged in reflection for reasons outside assessment (fourth- vs third-years, P = 0.027). Fourth-year students also identified fewer negative barriers to participating in reflection and reported being comfortable engaging in reflective practice.
Conclusions: Overall, offering students a range of ways to engage in reflective practice over time supported their understanding and increased confidence in their reflective practice skills, thus potentially enabling a smoother transition into their profession where reflective practice is an essential and autonomous skill.