Facilitating learning in practice
Facilitating learning in practice

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Facilitating learning in practice

4 Developing effective questioning

Underpinning all of the assessment methods explored previously is effective questioning, which helps to:

  • understand the students’ thought processes
  • assess students’ critical thinking skills and decision making capabilities
  • clarify the processes and actions observed
  • ascertain understanding of the various components of a care intervention
  • encourage further reflection.

Carlson et al. (2009) suggest that questioning is the most commonly used form of student–mentor interaction, should be planned carefully in relation to the student’s stage of learning and should not be interrogative or judgemental. Ness (2010, p. 42) identifies key points below when asking students in practice questions to assess their learning:

  • Do my questions relate to the students learning outcomes?
  • Are my questions clear?
  • Do my questions help the student link theory to practice?
  • Are my questions at the appropriate academic level for the student?
  • Are my questions seen as threatening?
  • Am I asking too many questions at once?
  • Am I asking questions in an appropriate place?
  • Am I asking questions at an appropriate time?
  • Do I listen to the student’s response?

Activity 4 Acknowledging stages of learning

Allow 20 minutes

In the case study below, what questions would you ask to assess learning if a student, Jo, is:

  • A.at the initial stage of a pre-registration nursing programme?
  • B.completing their final placement period of a pre-registration nursing programme ?

Case study

Jo, a student nurse, has been working with a Health Care Assistant for two hours caring for Mrs X.

As Jo’s mentor, you have a planned meeting to discuss the episode of care for thirty minutes before lunch. Jo states that Mrs X is complaining of headaches, feeling weak and just wants to go home. Jo has noticed that her skin is very dry.


Possible interventions for scenarios A and B are described below.


  • You may have decided not to bombard Jo with too many questions at this stage.
  • Ask about their understanding of Mrs X’s condition as a baseline.
  • Can Jo think of any reasons why Mrs X’s skin could be dry?
  • Ask about communication skills. How could Jo gather more information about Mrs X’s headaches, feeling of weakness and wanting to go home?
  • Consideration of the environment; ask Jo to consider noise levels, comfort and positioning relating to how Mrs X could be sitting/lying.
  • How did Jo feel about the episode of care? You may want to ask Jo to accompany you to the patient to role model how you would assess Mrs X.
  • Ask Jo to reflect on this and read around a specific element of her care to discuss further at your next meeting.


  • You may want to ask more complex questions relating to Mrs X’s condition.
  • What does Jo consider to be the causes of the above symptoms and how have these been identified? What assessment tools did Jo use?
  • Ask about current and potential medication, including their side-effects.
  • What would Jo suggest in order to alleviate Mrs X’s symptoms? What related evidence and theory can be drawn upon to plan practice interventions?
  • What information has Jo given to Mrs X and what interventions did she perform?
  • You may want to ask Jo to write a critical reflection on this episode of care to include within her portfolio, which can be discussed at your next meeting.

All discussions relating to episodes of care need to be followed up with your own observation and assessment of the patient’s needs in order to ensure that appropriate actions are performed and plans of care are formulated.


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