Research Informed Teaching – Closing the loop

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Authors: Karen Margaret Wright – Professor of Nursing (UCLan), Gioele Attardo – Adult Nursing Lecturer (UCLan), Tiffany Sinclair – Senior Lecturer in Mental Health (UCLan)

[Blog header image by Gioele Attardo]

The Research Informed Teaching (RiT) protocol for the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) indicates that RiT, amongst all benefits, represents an opportunity for students to take advantage of the research community and to explore the realms of the research process.

The document established the implementation of RiT in the University’s School of Nursing, followed by the School of Community Health & Midwifery. A first-year Nursing module has been identified for RiT rollout through an ’Enhanced Journal Club’ approach. The sessions will be compulsory and integrated in the curriculum, providing an opportunity for students to critique the quality and evaluate the evidence using a questionnaire. The latter presents adaptations of the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) review checklist.

For an appropriate student experience, the production of an introductory resource, using relevant technology such as video format, is recommended. The seminar will be led by the lecturer who will ‘hand out’ a journal article, followed by the evaluation checklist. The development of a platform will be necessary to gather feedback and questions from the students.

In the later stages of the implementation phase, an interview with the researcher and the lecturer will take place, where the latter will present the question from the students. The distinct incremental approach will see students’ involvement during the interview.

Evaluation is key for an evolving RiT delivery, acting as guidance for further improvements. Focus groups, evaluation questionnaires and mid-module evaluation forms are all envisaged in the strategy.

A practice example

Students were welcomed in the seminar room while Lo-fi music was playing in the background, to create a calming environment. The seminar would require focus. Time was provided for general chats to end, and the scene was set.

A flipped classroom pedagogy was used, whereby the students were given the paper – a literature review checklist. The subject of the analysed paper was ‘therapeutic relationships’.

Students were allocated from 30 to 60 minutes to read the paper fully. During this time, I could appreciate some of the difficulties that 1st year students might face when reading a research article. Too many complicated terms and lack of understanding were noted. However, the allocated time gave the students the opportunity to further research those incomprehensible terms. A safe environment is necessary for students to express their concerns and ask those questions that they might be afraid to ask.

Once the reading had ended, students began to critically analyse the paper using the adapted version of the CASP tool. The vast majority of students had a clear understanding of the purpose of such activity. Questions (found below) emerged from the session. These were noted by the module leader and presented to the authors of the paper (Professor Karen Wright on this occasion).

Questions from the students:

“If the 12-item Working Alliance Inventory states it is used more in psychotherapy practice rather than mental health, then how relevant is this article to mental health nurses? Is it appropriate for a service user who may not be of sound mind but still have capacity?”

“It says ‘honesty’ as part of the ‘Authentic, Trustworthy, Time-maker, Approachable, Consistent communicator, Honest’ (ATTACH) model. How would we as nurses approach a subject area if asked our opinion but had different health beliefs than the service user – which may not be taken positively when engaging in conversation?”

“The article puts an emphasis on the need for nurses to be authentic, trustworthy, and honest. However, when considering an additional need for providing genuine hope – how does a therapeutic relationship develop within an end-of-life setting? Does the mnemonic then propose a position where the nurse is in a conflicting situation?”

“Are there any theories out there on the relationship between healthcare worker and patient that disagree with the basic principles of therapeutic relationship? If so, would you add them and compare and contrast the results?”

“What would you suggest are the main hindrances to measuring the therapeutic relationship?”

It is of utmost importance that these questions are answered in order to ‘close the loop’. This took the form of a podcast, where the facilitating lecturer personally asked those questions to the author in a recorded interview. This was then made available to the students.

To make this experience a little bit valuable and (let’s say it) ‘colourful’, a 3D animation intro to the podcast was crafted using Blender – a powerful 3D design and animation open-source software. You can watch the video here.

To conclude the RiT experience, students had the opportunity to share their overall opinion in the module evaluation form.


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