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The influence of the objective of safe practice

In document 1.1 The Focus of this Research (Page 165-168)

5.2 Case Study One Findings

5.2.2 Making Sense of the Learning Object The influence of the objective of safe practice

referencing, paragraph and essay structures, complex syntax, and formal vocabulary.

In terms of connecting with peers, the EAL students acknowledged their peers at the beginning of the posting (reminiscent of pre-genre scripts which frame a more formed genre – see Swales, 1990) and identified areas of agreement before expressing their ideas and experiences; however, they avoided deeper and prolonged interaction such as an exchange of postings with other students or simply returning to the forum after they had posted to view others‘ ideas. In essence, the data suggest that the term discussion really meant a long turn for the participants – the display of their own thoughts and understandings with minimal interaction between peers.

In summary, as the EAL students transformed the learning object, their intentions towards the learning object were manifested. Pressured for time and influenced by the perception that additional interaction with other students was not rewarded by the assessment criteria, they made sense of the learning object as a form of limited cooperative behaviour.

These beliefs suggest deeper epistemological understandings which shape how knowledge was viewed within the nursing course. While the teacher emphasised the importance of training nurses to be flexible thinkers who were able to adapt to their patients‘ varied needs, there was a sense that knowledge was in some ways fixed, closed, and uncontested. This view was articulated by the teacher:

We‟ve seen a few that crash, or get themselves into trouble because they‟re just too full of it and too into it, and softly, softly sometimes is a better way for a student to go and it gives them thinking time and they understand what‟s actually going on around it in that way...there are some who will go in boots and all with some new idea without having though it through and then putting that on paper leads the others in the wrong direction. (Teacher 1/Account 4)

There is a tension here between this constrained view of knowledge and an emergent view of knowledge as evolving, contested, and uncertain. A discussion characterized by the free flowing exchange of ideas, spontaneous outbursts, or the exploration of alternative nursing practice sits uncomfortably within this epistemology.

Additionally, the asynchronous mode of communication which required students to read and transcribe to communicate appeared to heighten fears of unsafe practice.

Within this nursing context, there was an additional concern that ideas reified in text may have increased authority, therefore, there had to be a degree of caution in posting behaviour.

We try so hard with their other written work to have their writing fairly rigorous so that, you know, there‟s no copying, plagiarism, rubbish that gets spoken that others might pick up as gospel and it‟s the danger with nursing, somebody has to just have to make a statement that‟s totally wrong, if everybody else has read it, there will always be one person who actually believes that that is what they‟re supposed to have learnt and that‟s dangerous so we try to encourage them to be very formal to prevent that sort of thing from happening. I think we need to keep it fairly, from my own perspective, I think we need to keep it fairly formal.

(Teacher 1/Interview 2)

A tension existed between the need to ensure that discussion postings adhered to safe practice and the concept of a discussion to examine a topic from a number of

perspectives and potentially critique and challenge existing beliefs. There was the potential that a discussion unencumbered by concerns of safety might explore dangerous (unsafe) territory which would be displayed permanently in text and read by the group of nursing students. This tension hints at a deeper epistemological conflict pertaining to how knowledge is viewed within the nursing course. This issue is revisited later in the ―safe practice‖ section of this chapter.

In terms of the students, the data suggest that they were acutely aware of the importance of advocating safe practice. For Student Five, this awareness manifested itself as a form of self-censorship to protect her from failing the course.

But sometimes just make you really uncertain, just not safe to speak cause we always have to close our mouths in the class, keep shut … we don‟t really want to say something wrong to the tutor or to this things which will make you pass or fail…yeah, just not safe. We don‟t want to pay really expensive price for saying something wrong and then you fail. (Student 5/Group Interview)

Thus, as she engaged in the discussion activity, she posted cautiously or remained silent to ensure her safety (and continued presence) in the programme. Moreover, the fear of being ―wrong‖ encouraged all the EAL students to adopt roles of responders as it was considered dangerous to initiate a discussion and safer to follow. This was suggested in the following quotes:

Researcher: Did you think about starting your own discussion?

Student Four: Er no, because I‟m not, I think it‟s very dangerous to make sure that I‟m not on the right track so after I see (student lists three native English speaking students), I think Ok, I write on the right track. (Student 4/Account 4) You gonna wait for other people to post their stuff and then you can get, um, you will feel more safe to write your things which will not off the track, and then you have to wait. (Student 5/Group Interview)

It is interesting to reflect upon the compatibility of online discussions within a course focused upon preparing undergraduate students to enter nursing practice. Risk-taking behaviours such as expressing spontaneous comments and playing devil‘s advocate

which often fuel the messy process of building consensus and negotiating meaning may not be appropriate within this context and could endanger a student‘s continued enrolment in the programme. Knowledge is not emergent and uncertain in this context, but rather, there is a sense that it is fixed and uncontested, and there is a strong sense that the concept of discussion is at odds with the underlying values of the educational context.

In summary, as the participants related to the learning object and engaged in its transformation, they were profoundly influenced by the need to adhere to safe practice. For the teacher, this manifested itself as an expectation that the postings would display cautious and thoughtful understandings of nursing practice. For the students, this belief manifested itself as an extreme reluctance to express ideas they were unsure about and to initiate discussions by posting first. In some ways, an appreciation for safe practice was a highly desirable attribute to foster in a nursing student, however there was a sense that this belief dampened critique and spontaneity and favoured the production of cautious and formal writing during the learning activity.

In document 1.1 The Focus of this Research (Page 165-168)