Socio-cultural: Developing An Online Course


The learning trajectory of the human learning experiences aims to create boundaries and create new opportunities. This experience of learning and negotiation of meaning within a community through concepts of imagination, alignment and engagement is the socio-cultural or ‘Communities of Practice‘ (Wenger, 1998). Socio-cultural theoretical framework involves the learning experiences from both past and present within the current learning environment to create new opportunities of learning.  The socio-cultural perspective surrounds the social construction, the environment and cultural context.

Socio-cultural Online Course
• Ideally naturally formed working partnerships and group work, this could be very difficult to create an effective, comfortable, trusting relationship formed quickly on an online course. The other option is to encourage discussion to link up with a peer, or eventually the more formal process of educator picking partnerships is undertaken. Same for group work, but likely the facilitator may organise this very low-key to encourage engagement and feeling of control and direction of the learners. Could a visual resource such as FaceTime, Skype or Hangout be used to form more personal relationships, “name to a face” approach?
• Cooperative learning environment, social integration of the learners.
• Peer partnerships.
• Online interpersonal skills, such as writing, listening, discussing, talking online, negotiating.
• Cooperative group work and learning experiences.
• Case studies and problem solving activities.
• Creating a solution as a team.
• E-portfolio for reflective practice, especially focused on the collaborative experiences.
• Sharing information.
• Variation.

Transformation Aims

Positive interdependence, in that the collaborative approach and sharing ideas has made a positive impact on the individual and the community level. The development of interpersonal skills and soft skills.

Keywords: social learning, community of practice, situated learning, COP.


Ross, P. (2016) Communities of Practice (CoP) by Etienne Wenger. Nursing Education Network.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge university press. [sample here]

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.

Wenger, E. & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015) Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses.

John Hattie & Visible Learning

Journal Club Article: Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge [sample].


Aimed “to synthesize over 800 meta-analyses about the influences on achievement to present a more global perspective on what are and what are not key influences on achievement” (Hattie, 2008). Hattie found 138 influences of learning from the synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses.

Big Data in Education

Hattie is bringing big data into the field of education. Using the meta-analysis approach of healthcare, like Cochrane and combining the research to provide a dataset with more impact.

Visible Learning, Visible Teaching

According to Hattie, learning is the explicit goal and this occurs when feedback is given, active participation from student and teacher, learning strategies are provided, development of self-regulatory attributes and the student becomes the teacher. Teachers see learning though the eyes of the student and aid them to become the students to become their own teachers. The teacher role becomes one of support, guidance and instruction and knowing when support is required. When all this occurs in teaching we have:

  1. Visible Learning
  2. Visible Teaching

The 2 infographics below, summarise the work of John Hattie very succinctly. The question for the nurse educator is to work out what relevant from Hattie’s work that can be transferred from the school setting (pedagogy) into adult learning (andragogy).

Areas Relevant For Nurse Education

Like any education research from the school setting it must be considered if this is relevant and transferable to the adult and workplace education setting. But it’s always good to visit new and different ways to deliver education.

  • Piaget’s cognitive development theory and learning how to learn.
  • Providing meaningful and regular feedback.
  • Use of formative assessment to gauge learning progress.
  • Micro-teaching- small group work with engagement and discussions.
  • Discussions on important issues.
  • Teacher clarity.
Visual Learning Infographics

Video Resources


Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge. [Goodreads blurb]

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge [sample].

Blended Synchronous Learning

Journal Club Article: Bower, M., Kenney, J., Dalgarno, B., Lee, M. J., Kennedy, G. E., Carter, H., … & Hedberg, J. (2013). Blended synchronous learning: Patterns and principles for simultaneously engaging co-located and distributed learners. Electric Dreams. Proceedings ascilite.


The traditional view of learning is of the on-campus University experience is changing, with students wholly or partially participating away from their institution (Gosper et al, 2008). Factors such as lifestyle demands of work, financial and social commitments mean universities now need to find new ways of engaging students irrespective of their geographic location.

The Answer?

“Blended synchronous learning approaches use media-rich synchronous technologies to enable remote and face-to-face students to co-participate in live classes”. The challenge is to provide collaborative learning activities in blended learning to ensure a social constructivist pedagogy is delivered.

Synchronous or Asynchronous?

Distance students have primarily been supported through asynchronous resources such as recorded lectures, electronic documents, discussion forums and course content delivery through a learning management system. But this does not provide vital real-time conversations, so a synchronous and multi-modal approach needs to be delivered.


Media-rich synchronous technologies such as:

  • Video conferencing (Skype, Google Hangout).
  • Web conferencing (Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate).
  • Virtual worlds (Second Life, Minecraft).

Learning: Student Tasks

  • Collaboration evaluation.
  • Group questioning.
  • Class discussion.
  • Problem solving.
  • Role play.
  • Collaborative design.

Teacher Needs

  • Extensive preparation.
  • Clear instructions.
  • Flexibility.
  • Student preparation.
  • Support staff.

Pro’s of Blended Learning

  • Equity of access.
  • Flexible course.
  • Technology aids work ready skills.
  • Continues a collaborative approach to learning.


  • Preparation for student and teacher to be prepared, don’t assume everyone is tech savvy.
  • Minimal software requirement, which may add to costs.
  • Broadband can effect user experience in the online learning world, may disrupt teaching sessions.
  • Capturing real time and ensuring quality online delivery.
  • Difficult to manage remote and face-to-face demands on the teacher (may need a support person to manage the online world).


Blended learning can provide a synchronous learning experience that allows the community of practice to continue. Resources are needed for the technology, training and supports required to deliver a quality education program. The question of relevance in the vocational setting such as healthcare needs to be researched to question if blended learning can really replace hands on training and if nurses are actually ready for this approach.


Bower, M., Kenney, J., Dalgarno, B., Lee, M. J., Kennedy, G. E., Carter, H., … & Hedberg, J. (2013). Blended synchronous learning: Patterns and principles for simultaneously engaging co-located and distributed learners. Electric Dreams. Proceedings ascilite.

Nursing Education Network (2016) Blended Learning

Blended Synchronous Learning (2017)

Phenomenographic & Variation Theory

Phenomenographic & Variation Theory

The phenomenological perspective is based around understanding the experiences of others, for example a teacher gaining an understanding of the student’s perspective of a particular lesson. Basing this approach around the individual’s perspective, continual evolvement occurs in the different learning experiences we participate in (Marton, 1981). The same educational content could be delivered to a group of individuals which results in different meanings and interpretations to each individual.

Marton and Trigwell (2000) explored this variation in learning situations and what can be achieved with different learning strategies, stating “variation is the mother of learning’. Martin & Booth (1997) highlight the individual concepts of different ways of seeing or experiencing, conceptualising, perceiving and understanding phenomena in the world. For understanding education, one needs to see the impacts on variation and learning. It is worth focusing directly on the learner, “The real distinction of phenomenology is the focus on the student/learner approach to learning, classified as deep, surface or strategic” (Marton, Hounsell, and Entwistle, 1984).

This individualistic, interpretist experience of the learner also utilises a process called transfer (Marton, 2006). According to Marton (2006), transfer utilises previous experience and recognising differences from past and current learning situations, this develops the idea of sameness in terms of learning, but also emphasises this cannot occur without recognising differences at the same time. “And when it comes to preparing students for an unknown future, the nature of variation is of decisive importance” (Marton and Trigwell, 2000, p. 394).

Thorndike’s stimulus-response associations in learning explains this transfer of the learning process from one situation to another, even in completely different topics (Knowles et al, 2011). The process then starts again in this new situation but the transfer is from the learners past context and experiences (Marton, 2006). In phenomenography the learner may determine what is learned, rather than the traditional teacher determined learning outcomes (Biggs and Tang, 2007). Marton & Trigwell (2000) “position the student as the agent of learning”.

“By using phenomenography one can identify how key concepts are understood by the learner, while variation theory can assist in identifying the aspects that need to be varied for the students to gain a deep, and complete understanding, thus improving learning outcomes.” (Stamouli and Huggard, 2007).

Keywords: transfer; individualistic; phenomenology; Marton; agent of learning.


Marton, F. (1981). Phenomenography—Describing conceptions of the world around us. Instructional Science, 10, 177-220.

Marton, F. (2000). The structure of awareness. In J. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenography (pp. 102-116). Melbourne: RMIT University Press.

Marton, F. (2006). Sameness and Difference in Transfer. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(4), 499-535. doi: 10.1207/s15327809jls1504_3

Marton, F., Hounsell, D., & Entwistle, N. J. (1984). The experience of learning. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

Marton, F., & Trigwell, K. (2000). Variatio Est Mater Studiorum. Higher Education Research & Development, 19(3), 381-395. doi: 10.1080/07294360020021455

Stamouli, I. & Huggard, M. (2007) Phenomenography as a tool for understanding our students. Trinity College Dublin.

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development

Zone of proximal developmentVygotsky’s “Zone of proximal development” describes how the learner moves cognitively from potential to actual development (a constructivism theory).

  • What the learner cannot do.
  • What the leaner can do with guidance.
  • What the learner can do.

This type of learning can only be facilitated through guidance and support (Moll, 2013). “Vygotsky’s social constructivism is an “outside in” approach as compared to Piaget’s “inside out” theory” Marti (2013, p. 58). To learn, scaffolding is required to build on the theoretical and skill development.

The zone of proximal development is defined as:

“the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).

Vygotsky’s theory advanced the cognitive educational domain from the cognizing individual to that of interaction and social learning development (Tryphon & Vonèche, 2013). The zone of proximal development theorises the state at which the learner moves from potential to actual development, and the importance of the social interactions to progress the learner. This cognitive development processes from a stage of ‘what is not known, to what is known’. The learners are encouraged to demonstrate the capabilities of social aspects of learning (Moll, 2013).

For the nurse educator, the need to determine level of knowledge and understanding is fundamental. Maybe the nurse specialises in certain areas and is currently learning new skills or knowledge, they may well move between expert and novice so an array of strategies to support should be initiated. Constructive feedback strategies will be required for ongoing development, especially for the ‘what is not known’ aspects.

Keywords: cognitive; Vygotsky; constructivist; proximal development; scaffolding.


Vygotsky, L. (1987). Zone of proximal development. Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes, 5291.

Marti, E. (2013) Mechanisms of internalisation of knowledge in Piaget’s and Vygotky’s theories. In Tryphon, A., & Vonèche, J. (pp. 57-84). Piaget Vygotsky: The Social Genesis Of Thought. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Moll, L. C. (2013). LS Vygotsky and education. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Tryphon, A., Vonèche, J., & Library, E. B. L. e. (2013). Piaget Vygotsky: The Social Genesis Of Thought. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Wikipedia (2016) Zone of Proximal Devlopment

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

Intended learning outcomes (ILOs) are explicit statements of what a learner is expected to achieve, and to what standard or level of achievement (Biggs and Tang, 2011).

When creating nurse education and training in the workplace, simulation centre or higher education setting, the importance of designing intended learning outcomes are vital. ILOs are central to the design of teaching and assessment so should be part of the initial planning phases.

Setting the aim of the learning activity and any related tasks provides a stage for effective teaching and engagement from the participant. The nurse educator needs to be committed to setting ILO’s, delivering content and then measuring outcomes of the delivered education.

Education Aims:

  • What is the purpose of the education?
  • What is the aim of the education?
  • What are the outcomes we hope to achieve?

What learning is to occur?

  • Pyschomotor- physical skills  
  • Cognitive- understanding and comprehending
  • Affective- values, beliefs and behaviours

Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • Who are your audience and at what level of higher order thinking is to be achieved?
  • Remember the authenticity of any assessments needs to be considered for adult learner engagement.
Bloom's Taxonomy

Educator Approach

  • Facilitator or teacher?
  • Learner centred.  
  • Avoiding surface learning and aiming for deep and meaningful learning.
  • Motivations for students
  • Set SMART goals


Other questions such as resources, sustainability, relevance and human factors also need to be addressed in the developing phases.

  • Skills: What students should be able to do at course completion.
  • Knowledge: What students should know and understand at course completion.
  • Attitudes: Students’ opinions about the subject matter of the course at completion.

Formulating ILOs


Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., & Bloom, B. S. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Allyn & Bacon. [Revision available by Krathwohl, 2002]

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching For Quality Learning At University (4th ed.). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education. [sample here]

Iowa State University (2016) Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from

The Perfect Assessment: Competency

Mind the GapBackground

Whilst working as a postgraduate course coordinator I regularly had discussions with students, nurse educators and the higher education team of the ‘ideal’ assessment. Everyone seems to have their own views and preferences on the correct method of assessment. This variability is matched by workplaces and universities assessing using an array of assessment methods for nurse training.

Keywords: competency, competent, test, assessment, professional development.

Education Question

You are the nurse educator and a nurse in your unit is struggling to meet the expected standards set by your nurse leadership team. The manager has asked you as the educator to spend time with the nurse and assess levels of competence. What is your approach to this situation and how are you going to assess this nurse?

Competence & Competency

“Competence is focused on the description of the action or behaviour, whereas competency is focused on the individual’s behaviour underpinning the competent performance.” (Tilley, 2008, pg. 63).

Example of national standards of nursing competence from NMC (UK):

“The standards for competence apply to all fields of nursing and are set out in four main areas of professional nursing practice. These are professional values, communication and interpersonal skills, nursing practice and decision-making, and leadership, management and team working. ”

Professional Competence: Multidimensional Model

The assessment may measure one, some or all of the following domains:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitudes
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Professional attributes (interpersonal skills)

Education Theory

Understanding and addressing how people learn using Bloom’s Taxonomy, includes the cognitive domain, the affective domain and the psychomotor domains for educational objectives. To guide the framework for assessment commonly the Bondy (1983) 5 point rating scale is utilised which provides a hierarchy of competence:

  1. Independent
  2. Supervised
  3. Assisted
  4. Marginal
  5. Dependent

Assessment Options:

  • E-learning package
  • Blended approach (e-learning & hands on assessment)
  • Objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)- Simulation
  • Oral case presentation: the hot case
  • Exam
  • Multiple-choice
  • Essay
  • Reflection
  • Self-assessment
  • Practice portfolio
  • Checklist skill task
  • Appraisal: formative and summative

McDonald (2014) states that “a multidimensional approach is essential to assess all aspects of behavior. This is especially true when assessing psychomotor skills, affective behavior, or higher-level cognitive ability such as critical thinking” (pg 7-8).

The correct assessment will be determined by the instructional process and intended learning outcomes.

Formative & Summative

An authentic form of assessment which requires ongoing development and a process of feedback. Formative (assessment for learning) and summative (assessment of learning) assessments provide an opportunity for self assessment and constructive feedback (Looney, 2011).

Qualities of Assessment

  • Validity
  • Feasibility
  • Fidelity to practice
  • Reliability
  • Practical considerations
  • Authenticity

“Reflect effective performance and can be evaluated against well-accepted standards” (Leigh et al, 2007).


Competence is difficult to define and lacks consensus. Is it assessing potential or ability?

Elements of subjectiveness exist if competence is judged by observing nurses’s performance. There is a lack of consensus on using a competency model for teaching and evaluating. And at what point does competency need measuring to move from general to specialised competency (Tilley, 2008). Is the capability framework approach more representative of ability and performance? One of the ongoing difficulties is agreement between employers and Universities in nurse education. Employers want work ready graduates, Universities want lifelong learners.


Anderson, L.W. (Ed.), Krathwohl, D.R. (Ed.), Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M.C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman. [example here]

Bondy, K, N. (1983). Criterion-referenced definitions for rating scales in clinical evaluation. Journal of Nursing Education. Vol. 22, no. 9, pp. 376-382. [example here]

Leigh, I. W., Smith, I. L., Bebeau, M. J., Lichtenberg, J. W., Nelson, P. D., Portnoy, S., … & Kaslow, N. J. (2007). Competency assessment models. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(5), 463.

Looney, J. W. (2011). Integrating Formative and Summative Assessment: Progress toward a Seamless System? OECD Education Working Papers, No. 58. OECD Publishing (NJ1).

McDonald, M., & Ovid Technologies, Inc. (2014). The nurse educator’s guide to assessing learning outcomes (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Tilley, D. D. S. (2008). Competency in nursing: A concept analysis. The journal of continuing education in nursing, 39(2), 58-64.

Social Media for Nurses: Twitter

Beginners Guide To Twitter

Twitter is a service to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick and frequent messages. People post Tweets, which may contain photos, videos, links and up to 140 characters of text.

Twitters Mission: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers”.


It’s agile, so current research and hot topics are discussed in a time relevant manner. You are following up to date practice. So try following professional nursing organisations, specialist organisations, publishers and the world famous gurus to see what they are up to.

Like any resource, it’s up to you as a professional to critique it’s merits.

The Eggtwitter-egg

For those who are unfamiliar with “the egg”, it’s the default avatar (picture) that Twitter gives to every new account. The advice is be brave and add a photo, add a brief bio, change the background and away you go.

Caution for nurses: You may not be able to add your employer details into your bio. Check with your organisation and their rules on social media. “Posts Are My Own And Not Necessarily Those Of My Employer”  is a common bio addendum.

Fantastic How To Guide

A Nurse’s Guide To Twitter by Paul McNamara (@meta4RN)

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Twitter 

Who To Follow?

Type in some keywords of areas of interest and see where you end up. Below are some people and #hashtags to follow.

Some Extra Tools

You can have more organised lists and manage followed topics using tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite [guide here]

Happy Tweeting

Maker Movement

What is the Maker Movement?

“The maker movement is about making things that you care about, things that are meaningful to you and others around you.” (Resnick, 2016).

It’s about being more than just a consumer, as we humans like to engage with objects. Dougherty (2012) highlights the tinkering skills of yesteryear and a trend to rediscover these skills, this is all part of the maker movement.

Creating such as cooking, mechanics, gardening, clothes making, pottery, woodwork, IT development, knitting and hacking all personify the maker movement.

Good for Learning?

“When you’re making something, the object you create is a demonstration of what you’ve learned to do, thus you are providing evidence of your learning” (Dougherty, 2012).

  • Learning hands on
  • Constructivism
  • Social learning
  • Participative
  • Networking:  collaboration of professions to bring an array of specialist knowledge.
  • Creative learning
  • Solves real world problems

Maker IT Tools


  • Learning: create it, understand it and develop it, rather than just understanding functionality. Especially important with technological advances and commonly our use of the interactive or front end part (ever opened up your phone to look at the inner workings?).
  • Imagine when creating a guideline or testing technology in your healthcare setting if a collaboration of IT, engineer, scientists, inventors and other specialists contributed to the idea generation and creation processes.


D. Dougherty (2012) The Maker Movement. MIT Press Journals.

The Edge (NHS): The Maker Movement: A Model for Health Transformation? .

Maker Culture (Wikipedia).

Resnick, M. (2016) The Maker Movement Isn’t Just About Making and Electronics. EDSurge.

Maker Movement Infographic

Ken Robinson: Creativity Expert

We believe Sir Ken is worthy of an individual post dedicated to his work alone. From books, Ted Talks, education policy adviser and media, this education guru is a creator and thinker on what teaching is and should be. Just transfer his discussion on education delivery from the school setting, into the hospital or higher education domain. The opportunity for creativity and imagination is the same. We adults have just forgotten how fun learning is or had it standardised out of us, during our own schooling.

France in XXI Century. School

Sir Ken Quotes

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Ted Talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

“The problem with conformity in education is that people are not standardised to begin with” Creative Schools

“We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national educational systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make — and the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

Ted Talks

“Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence” Ted Talk

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Bring On The Learning Revolution!

Follow on Social Media


Robinson, K., & Aronica, L. (2015). Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education. Penguin.

Robinson, K. (2013). Finding your element: How to discover your talents and passions and transform your life. Penguin UK.

Robinson, K. (2009). The element: How finding your passion changes everything. Penguin.