The aim of this assignment is to critically evaluate the role of a mentor with a personal reflection of the mentoring process, looking at four key requirements for mentoring practice.
According to the Nursing Midwifery Council NMC (2006), the term mentor is used to describe the role of a registered nurse who assesses students’ needs, to help facilitate the learning process in a practical setting. Chambers and Wall (2000) suggest that a good mentor should include qualities of honesty, enthusiasm, trust, patience, knowledge, experience and empathy. They should also be able to have a non-judgmental attitude and good interpersonal skills.
For this mentorship course, I have been allocated a second-year child branch student. She has had little to no experience working with neonates but has worked on a children’s ward. Her placement will last 10 weeks and she has been allocated 2 mentors. For the first week of her placement, she worked with me solidly. Kenworthy and Nicklin (2000) suggest that the more comfortable and secure a student feels within the placement environment, they are more likely to have a positive experience. Honey and Mumford (1992) express that if you teach according to a specific learning style, preferred by the student this creates a tailored learning experience.
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They suggest that it’s important to tailor your teaching to the style your student prefers for them to have the best learning experience possible. They also describe learners as activists, pragmatists, theorists or reflectors. Honey and Mumford (1989) researched that many students were a combination of these styles but normally one of them stands strongest. When first meeting my student I took into account the learning styles depicted by Honey and Mumford (1989) to try and teach my student in the best way possible. I determined that my student was a pragmatist and reflector which I feel best describes my style as well. So this worked well for our student-mentor relationship and helped me teach her in the best way possible.
It is important that within the first initial time spent with the student that a learning contract is created as this document will assist in the learning project. A learning contract is a document that is negotiated between mentor and student which identifies the learning needs of the student and aims to depict what the student will learn to achieve these learning outcomes (Lowry 1997, Richardson 1987). According to Knowles (1980), contract learning helps solve the problems of dealing with wide changes within any group of adult students. Knowles (1986) accepts that’s contracts are not also suitable when the subject is new to the student and areas of interest and improvement are not clear.
Knowles (1986) also concludes that they increase student motivation, facilitate learning and helps build a bond between mentor and student. Learning contracts are a form of self-directed learning that encourages students to take initiative in their own learning. It is totally individualized to the students, with them setting their own goals and this is how they evaluate their own progress. An important part of learning contracts is a personal reflection on the whole learning cycle to identify areas for improvement.
Knowles (1984) also argues that there is a huge difference between adult learners and children learners psychologically. He uses the term ‘andragogy’ to depict the way adults learn, and pedagogy to depict the way in which children learn. He breaks the ways in which adults learn into seven fundamentals that mentors should take into account (Knowles 1984). Reece and Walker (2002) argue that adult learning works well in relevant professions, recommend that teachers need to provide more individualized learning.
I found when completing this learning contract with my student was a very easy process, as my student was well prepared and knew exactly what goals she wanted to achieve. I was also prepared as I knew what goals, also that I wanted my student to achieve while on placement. The documentation was very easy to understand and clear in what I had to write.
Learning contracts assessments are important for identifying goals that are not being achieved at an early stage, to help support the students after identifying areas for improvement to be able to achieve these goals at the final assessment. One of the main factors that affect learning is the learning environment, the place in which the students are being taught.
Bloom (1965) defines an environment as being the circumstances, forces and external surroundings which have an effect on an individual. A learning environment can be separated into two elements the academic and clinical environment. The clinical environment involves all the areas that surround a student while on placement including staff, patients and equipment. The academic surrounding involves the student and the nurse teacher.
It is the responsibility of the placements to provide an environment that is conducive to learning, producing an area in which the student can develop and mature (Price 2004). Learning in a clinical setting is as important as theoretical learning in the university (Stuart 2007). This environment needs to be therapeutic to help the student grow as a nurse, build their self-esteem and foster clinical thinking (Price 2004). Studies from nurse education suggest that a good learning environment is one where the fundamentals are placed on teamwork, consideration, empathy and support (Pembrey 1980, Orton 1981, Fretwell 1982 and Ogier 1982).
Fretwell (1982) suggests the main characteristics for an effective learning environment is that the placement shows an interest in the student and what they have to learn, form a sound relationship for the student especially between the staff and patients, focus on quality, support the students in all aspects, time for students to ask questions and teamwork. Ferguson (2000) suggests that starting a new placement can be one of the most anxious times for a student, but providing an environment that entails diversity and complexity can be beneficial for the student.
Interpersonal relationships were recognized as being very important within the clinical learning environment. Rogers (1983) suggests that people fulfil their full potential if they have a positive view of themselves. This can be achieved when other individuals treat the person with respect and make them feel valued with unconditional positive regard.
The issue with this, people don’t see positive regard as unconditional. Rather they only feel valued in certain situations this leads to students feeling undervalued if they don’t behave in a particular way. Whilst Rogers (1967) suggests that people need unconditional positive regard, Maslow (1970) argues that people need a variety of needs which to achieve at different times.
To evaluate learning environments it’s important for workplaces to complete SWOT analysis. This is to examine the workplace, and from this analysis, I identified some key areas on the placement that needed improving. Price (2004) helps mentors analyze their workplace by encouraging mentors to conduct (SWOT) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
The SWOT analysis and measure created are in Appendix 1. SWOT analyses are supported by Price (2004) he encourages mentors to explore their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to help them evaluate their learning environment. This framework is based on practical skills, practice resources, student support and an educational method that can be used in any environment. He suggests that these analyses are a continuing evaluation and not just completed on a once-only basis (Price 2004).
There are many reasons why we evaluate students, to assess whether they are experiencing difficulty and to evaluate the teaching methods’ effectiveness. Assessments are necessary for the maintenance of professional principles (McMullan et al 2003), and to protect the general public if these principles are not being achieved (Chamber 1998). Assessment can be a difficult process as it involves many crucial elements of teaching. It can be easily influenced by fear especially fear of failing students (Bargagliotti 1999, Newble and Cannon 1998).
Assessment simply means to directly observe and record, through a variety of methods the student performance according to their curriculum to make an informed decision on their progress (Newble and Cannon 1998). Mentors are accountable to the NMC when they evaluate students’ practice, to make sure they have the necessary knowledge, competence and skills to become a registered nurse.
The achievement of reliability and validity are needed for affective assessment (Rowntree 1987). Creating an assessment plan that is reliable and valid is a strategic challenge in nurse education (Donoghue and Pelletier 1991). Assessments that are reliable are made over time through observation by one or more assessors and are consistent. Reliability determines the consistency of performance through learning contracts and testimonies (Rowntree 1987, Polit and Hungler 1995). Validity of assessment determines that a test measures exactly what it was made to measure (Stuart 2007). This is why it’s important to choose the right assessment method for the particular student to make sure they are assessed appropriately for the skill required whether in a formative or summative format.
Assessment of students is focused on direct supervision by mentors on specific tasks and general behaviour (Dolan 2003). Price (2004) suggests that practice-based assessments should be conducted in a fair and just manner using two of the main methods of assessment. Formative assessment – intended to advise a student of their progress of meeting the desired goal. Summative assessment – is intended to help the judge to see whether a student is competent and meets specific benchmarks already set out (Brown 1997).
The registered nurse is expected to assess students to ensure they develop to become competent practitioners. However, this role is complicated because of personal judgment and bias views (Philips et al 2000). This can lead to problems in identifying issues and resolving them especially when students are failing. Assessments can be informal and formal to assess whether the student can apply theory to practice. This is done through feedback, documentation, discussion of care given which is monitored continually on a day-to-day basis (Price 2004). All aspects of the students are assessed behaviour, teamwork, attitude, skill, appearance and motivation (Price 2007).
All these assessments are recorded in student documentation supplied by their university according to specific goals and skills they must achieve (Donoghue and Pelletier 1991). As well as testimonies, action plans and learning contracts. When I assess a student I use all the above assessments to achieve a full overview of a student’s progress. These methods seem to work best in the assessment of a student as they are easy to complete and involve student participation, with them directing their own learning, so they are able to achieve the most out of their placements.
The validity and reliability of these assessments are achieved by using a range of assessment methods so as to protect the students from biased views (Donoghue and Pelletier 1991). Students are assessed at different times during their placements to monitor improvement or failure. The NMC (2006) advises that assessment should be carried out through direct care, simulation, objective structures clinical examinations and other strategies.
Regular feedback sessions should be arranged to review progress, focusing on the positive of the student progress and developing action plans for any problems identified. The feedback that is constructively given that is delivered in a way that is sensitive towards the student will enhance the student to be more motivated and increase job satisfaction (Ogier and Barnett 1986). Egan (1990) suggests that feedback is most constructive when delivered in a supportive but challenging way.
Landshear (1990) identified that mentors and ward staff are reluctant to fail student even if they work is unsatisfactory. This reluctance has been found in a number of studies (While 1994, Duffy and Scott 1998, Norman et al 2002 and Dolan 2003). Several reasons have been acknowledged for the reason why students fail poor communication, inappropriate behaviour and other issues.
It can be difficult for mentors to fail students (Ilott and Murphy 1999). One of the main reasons is mentors have not got enough experience, especially in their own abilities to be able to assess students. Also, mentors have been showing to pass on the student so other people can fail the student if this was appropriate (Chamber 1998). Mentors have been showing to favour personality over the ability to further the issue of not assessing students as a whole but only focusing on the good aspects (IIott and Murphy 1999).
This is why having designated mentors and completing the regular assessments is important in determining if a student is competent. Creating competencies has been a way of developing standards to assess students (Chambers 1998 and Redman et al 1999).
Competences allow for an assessment to determine if the student is able to provide safe and effective professional practice without supervision (Nursing Midwifery Council 2002). Competencies provide the foundation for which these assessments can be made (Wynne and Stringer 1997). While competencies have their advantages it can have its difficulty’s in placements that have unpredictable workloads (Lester 1994).
In conclusion, this essay has explored the concept of mentorship and the processes, which are used to assess students. I have developed a good knowledge base and critical awareness of the mentorship process. Research into the learning environment has clearly shown that it can have a massive impact on the students learning, and their ability to reach their full potential in their placement. The exploration of learning theories and styles within this assignment has helped me become a better mentor and integrate theory into practice.
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