Developing skills for the workplace : a comparison of students' and workplace supervisors' perceptions on the development of critical workplace skills in radiography training.
The motivation for this study was the comments by supervisors in the radiography workplace about the students' lack of critical skills when they went for experiential learning. Higher education institutions are required to teach all students the critical crossfield outcomes (CCFOs) so that they can apply them in the world of work. The purpose of the study was to understand the problems in the workplace so that training gaps could be identified. The training gaps were to be used to improve the current curriculum so as to prepare the students more adequately for the workplace. The Durban Institute of Technology (DIT) prepares students to function as radiographers in hospitals and private practices where all the CCFOs are needed. This is done using the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) approach to teaching, where students work collaboratively in groups of various sizes ranging from two to six doing theory and practical activities. The training programme includes experiential learning that is done in accredited hospitals where students work under the supervision of qualified radiographers. The study focussed on the first year student radiographers at DIT who had been placed in the Pietermaritzburg hospitals for their experiential learning. All the supervisors in these hospitals were included in the study as well. Students were interviewed at the end of their first experiential learning block, before they commenced with their second year programme. A qualitative research approach was used to explore the perceptions of the students and supervisors in terms of the development of workplace skills by students. Questionnaires were given to the supervisors and students were interviewed. All questions asked in both the questionnaires and the interviews related to the CCFOs. The findings showed that the perceptions of the students and supervisors were not very different in terms of which skills had been developed and which ones had not. The results also showed that the teaching strategies used at DIT were effective in teaching the CCFOs. A number of issues emerged that affected the way students learnt these skills. These were related to teaching and learning, the institutions and the students themselves. These were found to have both negative and positive effects on the learning of CCFOs. The research also found that neither the DIT nor the hospitals were successful in teaching the art of reflective practice, possibly due to the type of assessment strategies currently used to assess experiential learning. From the findings a number of training gaps were identified and recommendations have been made to address them. The current curriculum should be reviewed and it has been suggested that a shift towards the emancipatory paradigm would be more effective in producing a critical reflective radiographer who possessed all the CCFOs. The first year curriculum should be reduced so that only relevant subjects are taught. The assessment of experiential learning should be restructured to align it with the DIT experiential learning policy and clinical tutors should be trained to work with students in the hospitals.