Applying Legitimation Code Theory to teach breastfeeding in nurse education: A case study

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Nurse Education in Practice


Aim: To use Legitimation Code Theory as a framework to inform the design of nursing education and gain insights into student perspectives of this design. Background: Internationally, the World Health Organization's breastfeeding recommendations are not being met. One contributing factor is that healthcare providers including registered nurses lack the knowledge to support breastfeeding women on an ongoing basis and rely on their personal experiences to inform the care they provide. Undergraduate nursing students should receive education to assist breastfeeding women in practice. Design: The study is underpinned by case-study methodology. The Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) dimension of Semantics and the concepts of semantic gravity and semantic density were used to theoretically frame and develop an intervention module to teach undergraduate nurses about breastfeeding. Methods: This module was part of an elective seven-week paediatric nursing course. University Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC201/203) reviewed the study. Participants (n = 9) completed semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis helped us to understand their experiences of the module. The Template for Intervention and Description and Replication (TIDeR) framework was used to report the intervention. Results: The breastfeeding module was positively received by participants who noted the module's structure differed from previous courses. Three main themes were identified in the student experience. These are: a) threads and links; b) engaging structure; and c) seedlings. Conclusion: Legitimation Code Theory is an effective course development framework to harness the learners’ prior informal knowledge and weave learning activities between theory and contextual practice to develop cumulative knowledge. Impact: With an increased understanding of how undergraduate nursing students develop knowledge, the LCT dimension of Semantics can be ussed to structure content knowledge in instructional design. This approach builds explicit bridges between knowledge development in the nursing curriculum and learners' informal knowledge and contextual practice in clinical settings.

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