Policy implications of individual differences in learning style for education and training of pre- hospital emergency care (PHEC) practitioners

Indra Jones and John Cookson

University of Hertfordshire

PHEC practitioners need both a strong academic basis for their work and training which reflects the fact that they operate and apply their skills in settings which are increasingly characterised by complexity, variety, considerable ambiguity and conflicts between different values. This has policy implications for both teaching and learning.

Evidence from Canada (Campeau 1998) indicated that while PHEC work would be expected to attract convergers the survey data did not support that expectation. No particular learning style was dominant.

To work successfully in the PHEC area increasingly requires skills and attitudes associated with different learning styles. The social/psychological milieu, in which the practitioner works requires intuitive/feeling approaches, effective dealing with protocol-based treatment practice requires sensing/thinking rational approaches. The policy implication of this is that student's educational development must encourage competencies associated with multiple learning styles.

The Department of Nursing and Paramedic Sciences provides courses in paramedic science at a number of undergraduate levels up to honours degree standard. The teaching incorporates both traditional academic disciplines such as pharmacology, physiology etc. But also components necessary to become more effective PHEC practitioners. The development of one dominating style is normally at the expense of the development of other modes of learning. The process of individuation would enable more effective learning by the emergence of holistic development of all learning modes and more adaptive competencies. The policy adopted to achieve this holistic approach is to make reflective practice (RP) central to the education and training in PHEC aspects of the course. RP is an approach to learning from experience through conscious review, analysis and integration of thought and action. It is currently taught using a flexible framework applied to carefully selected case study scenarios constructed to accommodate all of the identified learning styles in a way which the student can adapt to his/her particular learning requirements commensurate with specified curriculum outcomes.

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