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Research and evidence use in experiential learning: perspectives and experiences of undergraduate nursing students.

Johnson, Neil


Neil Johnson


Winifred Eboh

Lesley Diack


For a number of years, research and evidence-based practice (EBP) have become essential concepts in the global provision of healthcare, and have become increasingly reflected in professional codes and educational standards. There have been considerable developments in the implementation of research and evidence into practice - for example, through the emergence of clinical guidelines. However, there is also a growing body of literature that reports on the challenges faced by nursing in the implementation of research and evidence into practice. Concomitant with the development of research and EBP in nursing, providers of preregistration nursing education have developed a range of educational approaches to support the training of preregistration nursing students, reporting such approaches to have a variable impact on knowledge, understanding and students' attitudes towards such subjects. While this is important, there is little research that explores how students perceive and experience learning about research and EBP in the practice placement setting. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore how final-stage preregistration nursing students - studying at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the United Kingdom - perceived and experienced learning about research and EBP in the context of the clinical placement elements of their programme. The study adopted a qualitative approach guided by a grounded theory method, with an unstructured focus group and individual interviews used to collect data. The chosen method was informed by the outcomes of two scoping reviews, undertaken from 2014–2016, which explored educational approaches to teaching research and EBP. Adopting a methodological framework, the scoping reviews sought to clarify working definitions as well as determining the conceptual boundaries of the topic. The scoping reviews revealed a range of educational approaches, which resulted in varying levels of impact in terms of enhancing students' knowledge, perceptions and attitudes regarding research and EBP. However, a key challenge in teaching research and EBP is that students struggle to see its relevance for nursing practice. Additionally, the reviews enabled an exploration and examination of the extent, range and type of prior research activity around the broader topic area. While the scoping reviews demonstrated a global consensus that research and EBP are critical topics in undergraduate preregistration nursing education, they also highlight the challenges of providing appropriate, meaningful and effective approaches to teaching and learning. Teaching and learning about research and EBP in preregistration nursing education is multifaceted and occasionally complex, influenced not only by pedagogical approaches, but also by the known and reported barriers to research and EBP use in the real world of practice. Ethical approval was granted by the respective ethics committee at each HEI. The sample comprised one focus group and two individual in-depth interviews with a total of six students, representing the fields of mental health and adult nursing. The interviews varied in duration from 25 minutes to 75 minutes. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and data were analysed using coding techniques drawn from Straussian grounded theory, to enable the identification of themes. While data did not enable the development of an emergent theory, four themes were identified - "experiencing practice", "the role of the professional nurse", "power and authority in practice" and "education". Students were able to identify and articulate learning in the HEI, and to recognise the importance of research and EBP. However, the experience of practice placements made learning challenging. This reflects the reported challenges from other studies as well as the tensions of bridging the gap between learning in the context of HEI and the placement environment. The study presents a conceptual model, representing (from the perspective of undergraduate nursing students) the differentiation between learning in an HEI and learning in clinical practice placement. The model represents a dynamic overview, emphasising the transient nature of learning in practice, and the differing relationships that students have as learner when in practice and when at an HEI. This differentiation is perceived as "different worlds". The conceptualisation of learning about research and EBP in practice placements demonstrates a need for the re-articulation of the relationship between HEIs and practice placement providers, to ensure that students are adequately supported and provided with opportunities to apply evidence into practice. There is also a need to connect a culture of learning - in the spirit of research and EBP in the classroom - with a practice placement environment that considers the needs of a new generation of learner, as well as considering the nature and purpose of experiential learning in matters of contemporary health and social care policy, and the standards of professional, statutory and regulatory bodies.


JOHNSON, N. 2020. Research and evidence use in experiential learning: perspectives and experiences of undergraduate nursing students. Robert Gordon University [online], DPP thesis. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 21, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 21, 2020
Keywords Nursing education; Pre-registration nursing students; Praxis; Evidence-based practice; Research-based practice; Experiential learning
Public URL
Award Date May 31, 2020


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