Exploring the views of adult learners about their learning in a postgraduate nursing program in a higher education institution in KZN.
Nkwanyana, Thobile Barbara.
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Background Minister Pandor (2008) challenged universities to increase access to higher education institutions by setting the goal as a participation rate of 20 per cent by 2015, as stated in the National Plan for Higher Education (2001). The participation rate should be augmented by recruiting and increasing numbers of 'non-traditional' students-including mature adults. While increasing numbers of adult learners entering higher education is applauded, literature shows that they are subject to many challenges. The main challenge is associated with the need for updating adult learners whose existing skills have grown rusty; the aspiration of skills and knowledge to seek progression to more responsible jobs; and the need for new and additional skills, grafted onto the existing levels of competence in response to new opportunities for adult learners. Therefore the purpose of this study was to explore the views of adult learners about their learning in a postgraduate nursing programme. Method A mixed- method approach using both qualitative and quantitative methods was used. The whole population (N=81) included nine (9) students from the BN Honours programme and seventy two (72) students from the Coursework Master's programme. All students were from the University of KwaZulu Natal, and they were all requested to participate in the study. Qualitative data was collected through focus group interviews and quantitative data was collected using questionnaires. About 62 students returned completed questionnaires, thus making the response rate 77 per cent. Results The research results indicated that teaching methodologies used at postgraduate level focused on both positive and negative teaching methods. A number of teaching methods were cited as positive methods. These had collaborative learning, active involvement in the learning process, and observation of adult learning principles. The study findings also indicated that teaching methods at postgraduate level focused on negative teaching methods. These involved demanding and time-consuming teaching methods, instability owing to a change of lecturer, poor class work preparation , and lecturers' knowledge and experience not being of a high enough standard. The results also revealed that various learning styles in nursing education have been identified. These include: visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic; Kolb's learning styles, logical, social, and systems person,(this doesn't sound good ... reword 'systems person') deep learning, surface learning, and strategic approach. Although a number of learning styles have been identified, the results demonstrated that the students learn differently depending on the way they perceive information. The results indicated that factors facilitating learning focused on support and availability of resources. The study findings also showed that support for engaging at postgraduate level was from a number of sources. Peer, lecturer, and family support were quoted as providing the main sources of support. The results also revealed that although a number of constraints were alluded to, lack of access to a computer, demands of employment, and time schedules were highlighted as high on the list of constraints. Recommendations Recommendations focused on the range of factors hindering leaning at postgraduate leveL Financial aid, implementation of measures to rectify difficulties facing adult learners such as family responsibilities, computer classes as part of a programme of study, support by management and nursing education to adult learners involved in any relevant programme of study. Recommendations also included further research into this problem targeting specific aspects of the phenomenon, taking into account the views of adult learners at postgraduate level.