All you need to know about the innovative teaching method, enquiry-based learning (EBL) that is changing nurse education.
I’m part of a team of nursing academics at The Open University (OU) pioneering the new educational method, Enquiry-based learning (EBL) in the UK. This new method is helping to transform nursing education by putting peer collaboration and teamwork at its core.
The OU has recently launched a report Enquiry-based learning: Transforming nurse education, which explores the feedback from recent OU nursing cohorts who have completed new EBL modules as part of their nursing degree programme. Delivered in partnership with employers, The OU provides a unique combination of supported distance learning and practice-based learning within the workplace.
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What Is EBL?
EBL involves students leading and taking responsibility for learning, facilitated by an expert tutor. It is participatory, improving personal and intellectual skills along with clinical knowledge.
EBL emphasises a nurse’s role in the learning process and asks them to engage with an idea or topic in an active way, compared to traditional learning models. It involves peer collaboration and builds a community of learning. Working interactively in groups benefits students as it widens perspectives and knowledge retention, with three quarters (75%) saying that EBL has helped their team-working skills and enhanced their critical thinking.
EBL encouraging students to take the lead in directing their learning can make it more impactful. That’s why The OU will be using students’ suggestions for improvements to make EBL work even better in the future.
What Are The Benefits Of EBL?
EBL is transforming nursing education by helping nursing students to improve their patient care skills. From the students who have undertaken this new training style, over two-thirds (68%) said it was helping their nursing practice, with two out of three saying it had improved their patient care skills. Teamwork is a key quality required by nurses and EBL has a strong emphasis on this skill, with three-quarters of respondents reporting EBL had helped their teamworking skills.
EBL also helps improve the quality of service in which nurses are providing to their patients, with two out of three surveyed saying that EBL has improved their patient care skills.
Additionally, more than three quarters (77%) of EBL students said their critical thinking skills had improved. Two thirds say decision-making skills have been enhanced, which is essential for effective nursing practice
What Do You Think?
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Why Are The OU Pioneering EBL In The UK?
The OU has identified that EBL has been a success overseas, so have incorporated the educational method into their teaching to help improve nursing practice in all four nations of the UK. Whilst the OU utilises online learning, the tutorials are all live and therefore interactive, giving nurses the opportunity to interact with fellow students, which in turn helped widen horizons. Nearly two thirds of respondents agreed that these interactions helped to expand their views, reporting the benefits of sharing ideas, helping one another and listening to varying points of view from students from differing backgrounds and employers.
From the students who have undertaken this new training style, over two-thirds (68%) said it was helping their nursing practice, with two out of three saying it had improved their patient care skills.
The OU has adopted this method as EBL helps students to improve their confidence and communication skills, allowing them to feel less isolated. By having multiple perspectives, the students can draw on different expertise, ultimately helping them to see the wider picture and develop stronger patient care skills. Results from the first cohorts highlighted that hearing others’ perspectives enhanced learning, reduced stress and made students feel part of a community. The report also showed that learning and working in small groups was more inclusive, interactive and helped students build stronger professional relationships.
Why EBL Should Be Embraced By Other Educational Establishments?
A report from Kirwan and Adams states that the main beneficiaries of EBL are the patients. Nurses have reported EBL has made them more self-directed, critical and reflective practitioners, meaning they are better equipped to deliver evidence-based care. This is reflected in the OU’s results, with a majority of learners reporting improvements to their practice.
The recent nursing cohorts who have completed their EBL modules have reaped the rewards as they have noticed a positive shift in the way they work. Having teamwork and peer collaboration at the heart of this educational method has helped improve their confidence by allowing them to widen their horizons and engage with other individuals in similar positions.
Quality patient care is vital in nursing and the report has highlighted how EBL has helped students to improve their skills in this core area. Additionally, the report shows how EBL has enabled students to develop other qualities such as communication and confidence which are essential to help deliver a high-quality service in this profession.
To help further develop enhanced nursing practice in the UK, we’d be keen to talk to healthcare providers who are interested in exploring EBL as part of their nurse education offering.