The reflective journal: A tool for enhancing experience- based learning in nursing students in clinical practice

Bagnato Silvia, Dimonte Valerio, Garrino Lorenza


Background: As a tool for documenting and accompanying students’ actions, the journal has an educational value: it can be used to record, recollect and re-elaborate experiences through a reflective, non-intimate writing. The study was carried out at the Degree Course in Nursing at the University of Turin (Italy), during a training period of six weeks at the Unit of Functional Reeducation of the hospital “M. Adelaide - C.T.O.”. The aim is to understand the level of reflection that students can reach using the journal and what they think about this experience in terms of learning opportunity.

Methods: The group of thirteen students in second and third year graduation course was invited to write daily, for fifteen consecutive days, a journal that describes their experience in training. Subsequently, the journals were analyzed with a qualitative method based on the seven levels of reflectivity that Mezirow had proposed within the transformative theory applied to adult learning. After this first phase, the group of students was invited to take part in a focus group to share and discuss their experience. The focus group was designed in semi-structured form. Qualitative content analysis was used to identify themes arising from the data.

Results: Twelve journals were analyzed. Students have reflective ability, especially with respect to Mezirow’s first three levels. The main findings showed that keeping a journal helps students to effectively enhance their experiential learning during the training period. For the focus group six students were involved. The following themes emerged: embarrassment and uneasiness, anonymity, evaluation, efficacy of the tool in experiential learning.

Conclusions: The study enriches the debate on the use of journals confirming what has already been described in literature with respect to journals potential in terms of fostering and stimulating a professional practice of a reflective type.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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