Facilitating learning in practice
Facilitating learning in practice

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Facilitating learning in practice

1 Learning development

You are constantly exposed to opportunities for learning, although you may not always recognise them as such. Think back to a time when you were a student; perhaps a student of nursing. It is probably easier to detail the learning that came from formal and explicit learning activities – such as a teaching session that a more experienced practitioner offered to explain some clinical skill – than to pinpoint the informal learning that can occur if you reflect on interactions that you are involved in.

Before you look at some theory that underpins learning, spend a few minutes on Activity 1, which asks you to consider learning from recent occurrences. You do not have to focus on learning from healthcare practices – although please feel free to use such examples if relevant.

Activity 1 Learning and its enablers and inhibitors

Allow 15 minutes

Start by selecting one or two examples of activities that you have recently been involved in that were new experiences for you. You might want to keep a record of your comments to this activity in a notepad so that you can revisit your responses later, if you find that helpful.

For each activity respond to the following statements or questions:

  • Provide a description of the activity.
  • What helped you learn?
  • Did you experience any inhibitors to learning?
  • What changes happened as a result in participation of this activity?
  • How would you describe your learning from this activity to others?


As author to this week’s material, recently I witnessed a newly registered nurse being supervised giving intravenous medication – on this occasion to a patient who was in severe pain and had not responded to previous oral drug medication (I assume) to alleviate or control his symptoms. By the time he had his medication reviewed and a stronger drug (this time intravenous) prescribed, he was agitated and distressed. He was also pleading for the staff to leave him alone and allow him to sleep, as he stated he was exhausted. Although I witnessed this from the periphery as an observer, there was every indication that he was not prepared to play the role of the compliant patient. Indeed, I would argue that his distress and agitation offered richness to the learning that would not have been possible with a more compliant patient.

Into this mix the nurse was seeking to develop and demonstrate new skills of competence in administering intravenous therapy. From my observation point, I did not see the process and potential learning associated with the preparation of the intravenous drug, nor any discussions that followed the actual administration of the drug; but what I saw was an impressive demonstration of multiple skills at the bedside, many of which could be transferred to other caring interventions. For example, I witnessed skilled interpersonal skills that sought to calm the patient, carefully explaining how this medication was designed to be more effective than that previously used. I also saw a willingness to allow sufficient time for questioning and sharing of concerns. The reason for supervision was explained fully, and there was evidence of care and attention being given to the intravenous drug administration procedure and record-keeping. I was confident that the knowledge of intravenous drug administration was demonstrated, along with recognition of person-centred needs and understanding of the drug itself.

During your assessment of a learning activity, did you map out the process of learning as a series of steps akin to that of a learning curve, or classify the learning under common themes – such as knowledge, understanding and skills?


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus