On-the-job learning styles in the nursing profession

Last week I attended the public defense of Marjolein Bering’s dissertation. Her dissertation is about On-the-job learning styles in the nursing profession. It is well-written (accessible writing style!), and combines qualitative (what and how do nurses learn?) and quantitative research methods (development of an instrument to measure nurses’ on-the-job learning styles). Some research findings that I found particulary interesting:

Three popular self-report questionnaires such as the Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory are critically reviewed (p. 41). Her findings comprise:

  • If you want to learn more about how people learn at work, don’t ask directly about learning: “In most questionnaires people are asked directly about learning. However, the word ‘learning’ conveys the wrong message. Employees start thinking about courses the attended, books they read, coaching they received and so on”. Whereas on-the-job-learning is more than this…
  • When you want to learn how people learn, ask them to take a specific situation in mind: “Respondents are not instructed to think of a given context when filling out the questionnaire and thus, the influence of the specific learning situation is ignored”.
  • The social aspects of learning need to be taken into account. This is not the case in the three questionnaires under study.

I especially like the guidelines she found for research into workplace learning. In chapter 4 she gives an overview methods that are used in on-the-job-learning research and derives a set of guidelines from this. In the last chapter she described to what extent she followed these guidelines herself. There are 7 guidelines. E.g. guidelines 1 and 5 (p. 72): Future on-the-job learning researchers:

  • 1. Pay attention to on-the-job learning in terms of the nature of the task itself, the cultural and social relations that characterize the workplace, and the experiences and social world of the participants;
  • 5. Are explicit about the role they themselves play in the research (informant, passionate participant, activist, reflexivist).

Berings, M. (2006). On-the-job learning styles, conceptualization and instrument development for the nursing profession. Doctoral dissertation Tilburg University.