Institute of Health and Society: Delivering a PGCE using Enquiry Based Learning

Source: Institute of Health and Society: Delivering a PGCE using Enquiry Based Learning


Institute of Health and Society: Delivering a PGCE using Enquiry Based Learning

I work in the Institute of Health and Society and lead the Post Graduate Certificate – Teacher in Health and Social Care (PGCE) which leads to the registerable qualification of Teacher with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). I felt it was essential to the success of the programme that the students could make explicit links to their learning by applying it to their clinical teaching practice as I believe learners learn more deeply when classroom-gathered knowledge can be applied to real-world situations; therefore I decided to deliver the PGCE through enquiry based learning (EBL). The students study part-time, one day per week and spend the majority of their time in clinical or clinical teaching practice. The belief was that EBL would engender learning that is integral to professional practice and central to knowing, where knowing how to acquire knowledge for a particular purpose is often more important than the knowing itself.

In the context of higher education it is vital to encourage critical thinking in order for students to challenge their beliefs about the certainty of knowledge, reduce their automatic acceptance of the expert’s word and reduce their passivity as learners. This could be viewed in contrast to current healthcare and healthcare education which is set against a background of tightening fiscal policy and a continually changeable political doctrine due to the politicised nature of the NHS.  Parallel to these challenges have been significant reports into NHS standards. The Francis Inquiry (2013) heavily criticised organisational culture which allowed poor quality of care and poor leadership to exist. Following these reports there has been an increase within healthcare to focus on instrumental and technical skill development in order to monitor and regulate competence. However, higher education institutions are encouraged to utilise innovative, student-centred approaches to learning that focus on the process of learning rather than just outcome.

Freire (1970) suggests education that utilises a problem solving approach develops the ability to perceive critically the way learners exist with their reality and involves, through dialogue, the emergence of teachers and students being jointly responsible for the learning process in which all grow. Enquiry based learning develops an environment in which learning is driven by the process of enquiry owned by the student.

It’s important to consider the environment for EBL. Enquiry based learning is socially situated and learning occurs essentially through a community of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991). The students develop within a community of practice by sharing the knowledge created. Alignment of professionally-focused enquiry provides a vehicle for individual learning and the development of communities of practice and by encouraging students to be knowledge producers gives equal value to their contributions to the knowledge-base about teaching and learning.

Enquiry based learning is characterised by a commitment not only to knowledge creation and sharing but also to an action orientation: to the application and utilisation of knowledge. Enquiry based learning makes the learning, not just the content important and places practice at the heart of knowledge and the student at the centre of learning. Within the literature, EBL is discussed as a constructivist approach to learning and it is noted by Phipps (2003) that epistemological belief can affect engagement with EBL as a constructivist philosophy however, it can be argued that EBL can aid epistemological development (Kreber, 2006). This epistemological development involves more than just skill acquisition and information gathering, it requires a transformation of knowledge, views, identity and relations with others and with the individual. I believe that education should focus on the transformative process of becoming, rather than just on the process of learning.

My doctoral thesis examined the nature of EBL is a holistic experience. My findings indicated that the transformative nature of the EBL experience enabled epistemic development and for some students facilitated an ontological shift. The community of practice was a fundamental part of the process and engendered feelings of responsibility for others’ learning. One of the students stated:

“I think that what struck me most about the EBL was that you can see the simplicity of it is it’s defining point because it can be used in any course but I think the mastery demonstrated was using it in a course about education that not only were we allowed to use EBL but we were allowed to use it in a course about teaching and learning. I think that way you were able to see more than just the one side of learning, we were able to research learning”

Alongside these findings, the overall transformative experience of the PGCE enabled the emergence of leadership qualities, most notably self-confidence, self-identity and self-belief. The majority of recent healthcare policy refers to the need for high quality leadership from all healthcare professionals at all levels (King’s Fund, 2011; Francis, 2013). Whilst it is too ambitious to state EBL improves professional practice and subsequent standards of care, it is anticipated that the enhancement of the PGCE graduates’ ability to lead education in practice will have a positive impact on the students and professionals they lead and teach. The Francis Report (2013) suggests poor organisational culture, through ineffective leadership, was at the heart of poor standards of care. The PGCE graduates, as senior healthcare professionals, will play an important role in leading and shaping practice based education.

Ruth Pearce



Francis, R (2013) The Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. Available at: (accessed 07.02.13).

Freire, PG. (1970) Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin Books.

King’s Fund Commission (2011) The future of management and leadership in the NHS: no more heroes. London: King’s Fund.

Kreber, C. (2006) Research-Based Teaching in Relation to Academic Practice: Some Insights Resulting from Previous Chapters. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 107, 109 – 114.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: University Press.

Phipps, F. (2003) Educating Midwives: Where do we go from here? Midwifery Matters. 96:12-16.

Primary Centre TEL projects 2015-2016: Collaborative Pinterest boards

Several individuals and subject teams in the Centre for Primary Education recently expressed an interest in setting up collaborative subject Pinterest boards as their TEL project this year.

Sue Scott has kindly taken this forward for Primary Computing and we have set up some collaborative boards- see for examples. We have also embedded these within our ICT Support website to collate them in one place for students. Our next step is to invite students to be part of the co-construction process- update to follow on that part.

Sue and I are now ready to start working with you on creating any subject Pinterest boards you would like to collaboratively create with your subject teams and students on our courses. If you would like join in this TEL initiative here is what you need to do:

  1. Decide on the title(s) for your Pinterest boards e.g.: Primary Computing: coding etc. or Primary PE: gymnastics etc. When you have a list of titles for boards email them directly to Sue.
  2. Decide which subject colleagues you would like to collaborate with and email Sue their names.
  3. Next Sue will create the boards in Pinterest and use your university email address to invite you to collaborate. This will keep everything separate from any personal Pinterest accounts you may have. You will need to login to/register with Pinterest using you university email address and accept Sue’s invitation in the alerts. These boards will then appear in your area and you can start pinning to them.
  4. Sue will then create you a subject page on our WordPress site and embed your Pinterest boards so they are visible.
  • I am currently working with Sue to find a time efficient manner to invite students as collaborators. We will do this for you.

If none of the above makes any sense but you would like to get involved please do ask!

Not sure what Pinterest is


Moira & Sue

New IoE ICT in Education Support website by Sue Scott


Sue Scott, our ICT Education Support Officer has created a fantastic WordPress site to keep all colleagues and students up to date on resources and software. Please see If you have any resources you would like Sue to look after and list please contact Sue directly.

Contact details:
Tel: 01905 855161
Location: EE1103

Working hours (Term time only):
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 7.45/8.00am-1.15/30pm
Wednesday 7.45/8.00am – 3.30pm

IT in Teacher Education Research Fellowship Programme- invitation to apply for a Research Fellowship

The University of Worcester is an institutional member of ITTE (the Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education).


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ITTE Fellowships worth up to £1000 are available to support a Research Fellow to lead a team in the review and synthesis of existing research on a topic of interest within the field of digital technologies in educational settings. Projects should support ITTE’s main aim which is to enhance the use of digital technology in all phases of education through effective teacher education and training and across the range of any UK curriculum.

Applications for a Research Fellowship are welcomed from ITTE members who are Teacher Educators or Researchers in Higher Education or any related teacher training provider, including  staff in Teaching Schools (Alliances, School Direct, Teach First, Strategic Partnerships etc.).

An application must include at least one team member in addition to the Research Fellow.

To Apply for a Fellowship please complete this application form.

Closing date Friday 25th September 2015

For the 18 month period of the award, the Research Fellow will be entitled to use the title ‘ITTE Research Fellow in <the topic>‘ and use the special ITTE logo. If team members are involved (who are not required to be ITTE members) they will be entitled to use the title ‘ITTE Educational Researcher‘ and use the appropriate special ITTE logo.

Project teams will be supported by a dedicated online collaboration workspace provided by Knowledge Hub.

The final outcomes of the Fellowship to be completed within 18 months are expected to be:

  • a research review to be submitted for publication as an academic article in the Association’s journal Technology, Pedagogy and Education;
  • a summary of the findings of the review published as a MESHGuide and written in a form accessible to practitioners;
  • a presentation about the project at an ITTE annual conference in the year of completion.

The outcome of the Phase 1 application round will be announced in October 2015.

To find out more please visit:

Knowledge mobilisation and translational research BERA 2015

Last week Moira presented a paper at BERA 2015 at Queens University Belfast as part of a MESH (Mapping Educational Specialist knowHow initiative) symposium with Professor Marilyn Leask. The paper was titled ‘Mobilisation of new pedagogic knowledge to support national curriculum change – a model from the IT in Teacher Education professional organisation’.   Details available at :