Facilitating learning in practice
Facilitating learning in practice

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Facilitating learning in practice

3 Establishing a supportive learning environment

McIntosh et al. (2013) explored the perceptions and experiences of 130 mentors of nursing students, and concluded that mentors feel that they are the most important source of support for students in practice. Additional literature supports this view, and suggests that ensuring a supportive clinical learning environment can reduce both student anxiety and attrition (Moscaritolo, 2009; Robinson, 2013). It is important that you have an overarching interpretation of your placement area as a starting point to build upon.

Activity 2 SLOT analysis

Allow 20 minutes

Think about your own views on how you perceive your placement area as a supportive learning environment. If you can, you should also gather views and opinions from colleagues, current students, clinical leaders/managers, support staff, and relevant members of the multi-disciplinary team.

Using any information from others and your own views, copy and complete the following SLOT analysis to consider the strengths, limitations, opportunities and threats of your placement area. You can also download a copy [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Described image
Figure 2 SLOT analysis


There may be differing opinions as everyone has individual likes, dislikes, perceptions and learning preferences. However, it is important to consider these in addition to your own viewpoints to foster and encourage a collaborative learning environment.

Mentorship programme

If you are completing this session as part of an NMC mentor preparation programme, use the protected learning time allowed to discuss your SLOT analysis at a team meeting. You may want to ask mentorship to be a standing agenda item in order to encourage sharing of ideas, foster supportive networks and provide a forum to discuss suggestions to improve the student learning experience.

You may come across accounts similar to the following:

  • ‘When I was a student, you were told what to do and you just got on with it – you daren’t question Sister.’
  • ‘Students today have it too easy! They don’t want to get their hands dirty.’

It is important that these viewpoints are not left unchallenged. Use current evidence to support new ways of thinking in ensuring all staff working within your placement area:

  • are positive about student learning
  • have an understanding of their involvement in the learning opportunities planned for students.

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