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An Appreciative Inquiry investigation into changes in undergraduate health science education since COVID-19

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conference contribution
posted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Alicia Quak, Megan Lau, Charlynn Poon, Iris Soh, Anthony James GoffAnthony James Goff, Karina Michelle DanczaKarina Michelle Dancza
Introduction
Healthcare systems across the globe have been facing shortages of healthcare workers, which is now accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic (International Labour Organisation, 2020). Therefore, the continuity of learning for healthcare students during such disruptions is a priority, to ensure that the pipeline of healthcare workers remains uncompromised (Karalis & Raikou, 2020). To transform undergraduates into safe and competent healthcare professionals, students undergo classroom learning activities, hands-on practical sessions and group work to develop the knowledge and skills needed to join the workforce (Van Rensberg, 2018). Traditionally, these activities happen face-to-face, but with physical distancing restrictions implemented due to COVID-19, changes to teaching and learning approaches were made rapidly. It is important to understand what modifications have been made, and the impact it has had on students and educators. Due to the long-standing nature of COVID-19, online and blended learning will remain for the foreseeable future. There have been numerous studies on the impact of online teaching and learning (Azlan et. al., 2020; Crawford et. al., 2020; Dhawan, 2020; Fadol et. al., 2018; McQuirter, 2020), but information with reference to the Singaporean context is limited. Hence, this study explores local health science students’ and faculty’s perspectives on changes that occurred to undergraduate teaching and learning practices since COVID-19, and how such experiences can inform future curriculum development. 

Methods
The Appreciative Inquiry methodology (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987) was used to explore the educational changes that have occurred during the pandemic and their effects. This methodology was chosen as it is a strengths-based approach, and provides an opportunity for participants to identify good practices and encourage them to take responsibility for eliciting change (Shuayb et. al., 2009).  The methodology focuses on four main phases: Discover (how learning and teaching is happening now), Dream (what would an ideal state of learning and teaching look like), Design (how do we close the gap between current and ideal practices), and Deliver (what are the practical steps needed for change). The Appreciative Inquiry phases were used to design an online survey for faculty and students from the Singapore Institute of Technology’s (SIT) undergraduate health science programmes. The survey was followed up with online focus groups of students and faculty to further explore the changes to teaching and learning from an Appreciative Inquiry perspective. The qualitative data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).

Results
A total of 120 SIT health science faculty and undergraduate students responded to the online survey, of which 36 participated in 12 focus groups. Preliminary results indicate that while there has been disruption, there has been positive changes experienced by both faculty and students. Themes from the data include, ‘intentional engagement is needed for online learning’, ‘working out strategies for encouraging self-directed learning’, ‘needing to create new routines and use time differently’, and ‘encouragement and support helps to deal with uncertainty’.

Conclusion
SIT’s undergraduate health science students and faculty experienced numerous changes in teaching and learning practices since the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuity of learning during the pandemic has been made possible by using online platforms and the adaptability and perseverance of both students and faculty. New ways to engage students in online learning and enhance self-directed learning were developed, new learning routines and spaces were created, and people demonstrated encouragement and support to deliver the essential components of healthcare education. Being aware of the impact of these changes and practical strategies that both faculty and students find helpful will enable future curriculum to be intentionally developed. These redesigns can account for any prevailing restrictions, but are guided by pedagogy rather than emergency changes.

History

Journal/Conference/Book title

Applied Learning Conference 2022, 20-21 January 2022, Online

Publication date

2022-01