Paula McMullen2, Robert H. Cantwell1, Allyson Holbrook1
1 School of Education, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
2 School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
Background: This paper reports on metacognitive changes associated with nurses’ participation in a specialised Intensive Care Nursing course (ICNC). Regardless of the setting, the development of effective learning strategies comprises the “metacognitive” component of learning – the ways we self-direct our motivations, strategy choices and affective responses. The researchers hypothesised that the metacognitive attributes displayed by the nurses would impact upon the way they engaged with the postgraduate curriculum. Method: A mixed method approach was utilised to investigate RNs’ metacognitive thinking. Measures of Approach to Learning, Self-regulation and Self-Efficacy were obtained at the beginning of the academic year, with an additional collection from a targeted subset of ICNC participants at the end of the academic year. A case study approach was then used to explore the learning processes of the ICNC subset over the duration of the course. Data were triangulated to provide an account of the metacognitive experiences of the ICNC students. Results: ICNC nurses and other nurses did not differ in approach to learning, self regulation and self-efficacy. Initially, the ICNC nurses tended towards a deep approach to learning with a reasonably high sense of efficacy, their self-regulation tended towards less functional strategy control. The second round of measurement revealed no change in approach to learning, coupled with more functional self-regulation and an increase in self-efficacy. The case data amplified the findings, indicating the subtleties of changed metacognitive behaviours associated with the complexity of the demands and learning experience. Conclusions: The data indicated a strong relationship between reported and observed metacognitive behaviours and outcomes associated with the course. The nurses maintained a deep bias in their learning, but rendered this more effective with more sophisticated self-regulation. This suggests that openness to metacognitive change may be a facilitative element in meeting the demands of new, higher-level learning.