Enabling Undergraduates to Put into Practice Learning to Support Emotional Well-Being for Children and Young People

By Turner, Wendy | International Journal of Emotional Education, April 2014 | Go to article overview

Enabling Undergraduates to Put into Practice Learning to Support Emotional Well-Being for Children and Young People


Turner, Wendy, International Journal of Emotional Education


Context

The BA programme in Childhood and Youth (the 'programme') at the University of Northampton in the UK, provides a pathway in preparing students for a professional role within children and young people's workforce. The programme follows a series of Higher Education (HE) modules designed and delivered by expert tutors using lectures, seminars and tutorials module. The modules have been developed to embrace the Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children's Workforce (CWDC 2010). Alongside their studies, students engage with work experiences, organised and supported by the University. Graduates of the programme have gained employment as project managers for the NSPCC, health charities, Local Authority, within schools. Other graduates have continued their education at Masters level in social work, primary school teaching, adolescent mental health and international development amongst others.

The term 'practice- theory gap' has emerged from the field of nursing and refers to the notion that what student nurses learn in the classroom does not bear much relevance to the reality of nursing in real situations (Allmark, 1995). This holds upon the premise that knowledge associated with practice cannot be taught and thus the knowledge that a practitioner has cannot be theory but must (therefore) be something else (Allmark, 1995; Wilson, 2008). This commonly held shibboleth appears to be strongly felt (NHS Commissioning Board, 2012); however if this was the case than the inference must be that theory does not inform practice and that practice therefore cannot be taught. A lot of research, however, refutes this (Allmark, 1995; Eraut, 1994; Schon, 1987; Scully, 2011; Tight, 2003; Wilson, 2008), and indeed professional vocational education has moved into Higher Education (in the UK) to increase the knowledge of theory in order to increase the quality of practitioners (Eraut, 1994; Schon, 1987; Tight, 2003) who suggest that learning occurs when knowledge is integrated and applied into the real world.

Wilson (2008) suggests it is the development of skills acquisition that bridges the practice -theory gap. Skills acquisition learning occurs alongside peers and mentors via shared learning, shared concerns and achievements and in cementing knowledge (Scully, 2011; Wilson, 2008) and this process supports students to become ready for the workplace. Further Scully (2011) notes that as the skills are developed the students' anxieties decrease, and an outcome from this might be suggested that concurrently, student confidence grows.

Thus this evaluation sought first to establish if students had acquired knowledge and understanding of children and young peoples' emotional well-being. It is the acquisition of that understanding that fits into the context of this evaluation: that student's attain an understanding and thus knowledge of children and young peoples' emotional well-being by learning about research, theory and practice on the topic. Secondly it sought to appraise if students' applied this knowledge when working directly with children and young people.

Evaluation Aim

This evaluation set out to establish if, using a focused blended learning module, which required students to be co-producers of their learning through reflection enabled them to acquire and use purposive knowledge and understanding of emotional well-being for children and young people, thus bridging the 'practice -theory gap' In her seminal work Benner (1982) suggests that knowledge and understanding underpins practice. Benner explains that nurses acquire knowledge through getting information, facts and skills through their education and experiences. She further breaks this down to knowing how and knowing why. This combination demonstrates the need of education (why) alongside real (practice) experiences (how). Benner's work is based within the field of nursing, however in developing and preparing professionals to work with children and young people, Benner's principles have been adopted: that is education alongside related experience; creating supported opportunities for students to apply their learning (knowledge) within their work experiences. …

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