An investigation into the perceived influence of reflective journal writing in the process of pre-registration midwifery students' experiential learning
Over the past 20 years reflective practice has maintained a firm presence in health professional education and practice. The notion that reflection enhances learning and professional practice is widely reported in the literature. With the continuing changes in health care, it is vital that midwives, like other professionals, develop the skills to critically evaluate care provision. Reflection is considered to be deliberate, complex processes for enhancing professional development, linking theory and practice, learning from experience, and for .promoting critical thinking and lifelong learning skills. Drawing on the work of leading theorists in the field, theoretical concepts relating to professional knowledge, learning, professionalisation and reflection were utilised to inform the empirical study. Reflective journal writing is one learning strategy used in professional education to develop reflective practice. Extensive review of literature about its use revealed limited investigation specifically relating to midwifery. The aim of this study was, therefore, to establish the perceived influence of reflective journal writing in pre registration midwifery students' experiential learning in a singularity. An ethnomethodological approach was adopted as it entailed investigating individuals interacting in an ordinary setting, and in a holistic way. Phenomenological ideas about conducting research supported the methods used to construct and give meaning to participants' actions within this social context. Multiple research methods were used to ascertain students', midwives' and lecturers' perception of how critical reflection was facilitated. Qualitative data were gathered through, for example, structured group discussions, semi-structured interviews, the analysis of journal entries and secondary data sources. A purposive sample of students (n 105), midwives (n 25) and lecturers (n 12) were chosen on the basis of convenience and accessibility within the research timeframe. The study revealed that both midwives and students had a superficial understanding of reflection. A key finding was that although students experienced some difficulty with journal writing they identified many benefits, particularly in relation to acquiring midwifery knowledge. Both mentors and lecturers played a pivotal role in students' development as reflective practitioners. However, the research identified some inconsistency in the approach to facilitating reflective practice and concluded that the quality of students' reflective writing would improve with better preparation and ongoing support. Having engaged in reflective journal writing during the course, newly qualified midwives viewed reflection as a necessary part of their day-to-day practice, assisting them with structured, thinking about practice issues. Overall, the implications for midwifery practice raised by the findings relate to how a culture of reflective practice could be better promoted, the conditions required for students to utilise reflective journal writing effectively, and the importance of consistency in approach when implementing this learning strategy.