2004 OPEN FORUM Abstracts
USE OF LEARNING CONTRACTS TO GUIDE LEARNING WITHIN RESPIRATORY CARE CLINICAL EDUCATION
Jones-Boggs Rye, Ed.D., R.R.T. University
of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR.
Background: Assessment of students’ development outside the boundaries of the academic classroom can be challenging. The assessment of clinical skills is of concern to employers, educators, and patients. Technology and the diminishing resources impact how, why, and when a student’s abilities are determined to be within the scope of acceptable clinical practice. Use of learning contracts can provide a basis on which a student’s development can be assessed by their mentor/faculty advisor, as well as themselves.
Methods: This qualitative study explored the attitudes of 26 junior and senior respiratory care students enrolled in a clinical internship experience that required use of a learning contract at an academic health science center. At the conclusion of the internship experience, a survey with open-ended questions was administered. A three-step content analysis procedure was used to analyze the qualitative data. First, the transcripts were manually coded by the researcher. Secondly, the codes were reduced into attitude themes and patterns. Subsequently a theoretical model of the experience was developed. The model is comprised of three primary constructs: competency (attitudes related to building student confidence and competence), self-evaluation (attitudes related to additional learning needs), and respiratory care cultural development (attitudes related to making a difference, seeing results, and teamwork in the profession).
Results: Findings of this study suggest several important observations related to the use of clinical learning contracts to guide learning within respiratory care clinical education. Findings demonstrated positive attitudes regarding the development of our students’ clinical competency. Both an adequate knowledge base and the mastery of a variety of skills are necessary for clinical competency. Findings further demonstrated that students were able to self-identify additional learning needs as they acclimated to the respiratory care culture. Developing a learning contract designed to facilitate these processes allows the learner to monitor their own education and to become a more discriminating user of educational resources, better able to focus on acquiring the desired clinical experiences.
The Experience: Clinical learning contracts are designed to provide students with the opportunity to focus on any identified areas of unsatisfactory or desired practice. The learning contract specifies how the learner will acquire the knowledge and attitudes relevant to their selected learning experience. The clinical learning contract may be utilized both as a learning tool and as evidence of a student’s development throughout their clinical experience. The steps in development of a learning contract include: 1) Self-evaluation of clinical learning needs; 2) Specifying learning objectives; 3) Specifying learning resources and strategies; 4) Specifying evidence of accomplishment; 5) Review of the contract with the mentor/faculty advisor.
Conclusions: The clinical learning contract was originally developed for use in guiding learning experiences of students during their clinical internships. Subsequently they have become a valuable resource in ascertaining evidence of clinical competency attainment. The clinical learning contract has evolved into both an evaluation tool and evidence of the competency development of our students.