BIOGRAPHICAL LANDSCAPES: NURSES’ AND HEALTH VISITORS’ NARRATIVES OF LEARNING AND PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
Margaret Ann Volante
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of East London for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
© Margaret A Volante 2005
The thesis illuminates biography, learning and practice and advances understanding of the development of professional knowledge and practice. The purpose of the research was to inform the pedagogical development of practice learning using a biographical perspective to investigate how nurses and health visitors use professional practice experiences to learn and generate knowledge and understandings of practice. The research is set within the healthcare policy context of lifelong and lifewide learning. The literature review builds on my own experiences. An argument is developed for practice learning to be located within a universal knowledge system that provides for the subjective and contextual complexity of nursing practice knowledge and learning. The research strategy is grounded in the theoretical perspectives of interpretive phenomenology and interactionism. Nine specialist community nurses and health visitors participated in the life story interview of biographical narrative interpretive method. Three transcripts were selected for in-depth analysis of subjective meanings of learning and professional practice. Case comparison of biographical process structures shows how biographies construct a resource for ways of knowing the world that is incorporated into professional agency. Five profiles of formal practice learning were accessible for documentary and textual analysis. Two patterns of orientation were reconstructed from this analysis: a learning practice constituted as a process of identifying and meeting learning needs through client-centred practice and public institutions constituted as a process of support and self-surveillance of the formal learning programme. These mirror biographical learning resources which seem to both construct professional knowledge and constitute the practice learning action environment. Discourse analysis of accounts of client care situations from follow-up narrative interviews with four nurses and two health visitors showed continuity of how individuals learn and do the process of knowing practice through their own personal theories-of-practice. Thematic analysis across the findings has led to the creation of a model of biography, learning and practice and utilises the concept of biographicity to inform pedagogical development of practice learning. The research makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge on implicit, non-formal and formal learning and the development of professional knowledge at a micro practice action level of client-professional interaction.
Prologue In memory of Kate and Nora Kate 1917 - 1999 and Nora 1915 -1996
Kate was my Mum and Nora her older sister. Nora liked school and according to my Mum was a conscientious learner. When she reached fourteen Nora wanted to stay on at school but it wasn’t to be. My grandfather needed her to work on the farm. At fourteen my Mum couldn’t wait to leave school. She wanted to work on the farm to let Nora get a job and to go night school. On marrying my Dad my Mum said if there were any children, the girls were to be given the same educational opportunities as the boys. There was to be no repetition of what happened to Nora. I left school at eighteen and went to university.
This thesis has been long in the making and there are people and institutions whose assistance from conception to completion I wish to acknowledge. Barbara Harrison and Prue Chamberlayne for their challenging and conducive supervision which gave me support, guidance, feedback and encouragement. Thank you both for your understanding and commitment. North East Surrey College of Technology (1997 -1998) and the University...
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