Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Building Competency in the Novice Allied Health Professional through Peer Coaching

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Building Competency in the Novice Allied Health Professional through Peer Coaching

Article excerpt

The development of competence is an ongoing journey, and one that is particularly punctuated in the early part of a health professional's career. These novice practitioners need to recognize that the challenges inherent in building competency might be resolved more readily by engaging with peers. This paper outlines what it means to be a novice practitioner, and how peer coaching can be used to support professional development in the allied health sciences. An overview of the reasoning process and how peer coaching and experiential learning can be used to build competence is described. A structured and formal approach to peer coaching is outlined in this paper. Novices who embrace this professional development strategy will find the model of coaching practice and underlying strategies described in this paper beneficial to their experience. The importance of formalizing the process and the underlying communication skills needed for coaching are described in detail with accompanying examples to illustrate the model in practice. J Allied Health 2010; 39:e77- e82.

THE CHALLENGE FORHEALTHSCIENCE students and new graduates, when entering clinical practice, is to transfer their knowledge and practice from the academic environment to the clinical environment.While it is important that novices demonstrate their competence to practice at an individual level, the journey towards achieving competence should not be attempted in isolation. Learning is a social process and there is much greater interest in formative assessment and learning practices in higher education which are constructivist in nature and provide a more productive solution for meeting the needs of students.1We build our competence by seeking feedback from 'others' about our knowledge, skills and attitudes towards professional practice. These 'others' don't just have to be clinical supervisors, fieldwork educators or your boss, they can and should also involve peers. Peer involvement can be a powerful formative learning experience as partners can support one another in building applied practice standards to their own work.2

In clinical practice, collegial networks are an important strategy to promote transfer of training.3 Transfer of training refers to the ability to take formal knowledge, acquired through training, and apply it to regular practice. Novices who think they can achieve this transfer on their own are less likely to achieve competency targets in comparison to their peers who engage in learning with peer networks.Whilst it is still possible to get to a level of mastery on your own, one will get there faster and more comprehensively by engaging with others in learning.4

The research is very clear that peer learning leads to significant gains in learning.5-8 and peer coaching is one method for facilitating this outcome, which is increasingly being used in allied health education. Peer coaching is one of a suite of peer learning strategies9 that can be used to promote learning and professional development. Peer feedback has also been used to describe the communication process that occurs between individuals in the learning environment and is seen as a powerful formative assessment strategy2 Much of the literature in the health sciences on peer coaching has focused on the model, its benefits and challenges10-15, and outcomes. 4, 16-21 Few resources have been written specifically for the players in this situation, the novice practitioner, which is the focus of this paper.

Oldmeadow22 provides a taxonomy of competence starting at the novice level and culminating at expert practice.As stated in the previous paragraph, this paper focuses on those professionals in the early stages of emerging competence, namely, the novice and advanced beginner. Applying this taxonomy to this paper, a novice, therefore, can refer to a student about to embark on a clinical placement/internship or a recent health sciences graduate. In the case of discussions concerning peer coaching, the novice may also be referred to as the "coachee" and the peer providing coaching as the "coach". …

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