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Lifelong learning has become increasingly recognized in research, education, and broader societal perspectives. If we are to meet the growing demands of a changing world, continuous learning throughout one's career is essential.

Anh Truong is a doctoral student in Work-Integrated Learning at University West, currently involved in the doctoral thesis "Developing an Educational Intervention to Support Work-Integrated Learning Among Professionals in Health and Social Care for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities" in a collaborative project with the City of Trollhättan. She has a background as a district nurse and has worked for many years within municipal healthcare and care services. During that time, she often reflected on the complex care needs that people in nursing homes often have.

– The challenge in such departments is that staff often face complex care needs, and there are no doctors directly connected. The staff may lack the knowledge required to understand and manage many complicated situations and feel that they are doing a good job. Yet, this is the demand placed on the care staff, says Anh Truong.

Three Parts Must Interact

Anh Truong has always been driven by a strong desire to contribute to good care quality. Looking back at her entry into the research project on learning for professionals in care services working with people with intellectual disabilities five years ago, she smiles and admits she had a somewhat naive attitude.

–  I relied a lot on the district nurse's role and opportunities to contribute to good care quality. Now that I'm finalizing my thesis, I've concluded that while that is still the goal, the path there requires a lot from many. When employees are sent on training courses, it is assumed they learn things, and that the work improves when they return. Few studies have been done on what is learned, how it is learned, and what processes are needed for the new knowledge to be implemented, says Anh.

In the research project, Anh wanted to examine which factors were critical for knowledge development.

–  Considering how much money is spent on education in healthcare and other societal sectors, it is relevant to examine which parameters are pivotal. How should care quality arise? What is required?

Anh used a pragmatic step-by-step process in the project, where the results of one step formed the basis for the next. She collected data through surveys and analyzed it with statistical calculations. But above all, she conducted individual interviews with 38 people, followed by a qualitative content analysis. She discovered that there are primarily three parts that need to interact—and be supported—for a successful result.

– One must consider the individual's learning process, and then ensure that the pedagogical design supports the individual's learning, context, and working conditions. Staff find it difficult to be away from the operation for extended periods. It turned out that many found the lectures too lengthy with an overwhelming amount of text. The third part is the organizational aspect. Support from the employer is incredibly important.

Participation Creates Motivation

How the employer prepares and motivates the staff before an educational initiative is crucial. Anh Truong emphasizes how demotivating it is for a participant to be told to undergo training that they do not see the point of, often resulting in wasted resources.

– Learning was better when participants were involved from the beginning. When they felt that they were involved early on, where the employer took an interest in the specific challenges the staff experienced in their work situation, the motivation to learn also increased.

Even during the training, the employer needs to show their support, and when the training is complete, it is important to request the knowledge and engage in its implementation. Anh shares that the opportunity to discuss with each other proved crucial. It is in the subsequent discussions in the group that the knowledge becomes context-specific and made 'their own'.

–  In the setup we examined, the staff conducted a number of web lectures individually. These were short lessons, between 4-12 minutes long, which they could watch at their leisure and then reflect on. After a couple of weeks, time was set aside for group reflections. With support in the reflection questions, exciting discussions arose where they began to question their previous processes and working methods based on the new knowledge. In collaboration with each other, critical introspection occurred, and that's when you've come a long way in learning.

For the thesis: Developing an Educational Intervention to Support Work-Integrated Learning Among Professionals in Health and Social Care for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.

Contact: Anh Truong, doctoral student in Work-Integrated Learning, University West, +46 73-901 34 29, anh.truong@hv.se

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