Case study

Building vital critical thinking skills for healthcare professionals

Trainee healthcare professionals worldwide have benefited from resources developed by the University of Derby that strengthen their lifelong learning skills for improved practice in the workplace.

As healthcare settings become ever more complex and demanding, skills such as critical thinking and self-reflection are essential to ensure professionals can adapt to rapid changes in policy and practice. Research at the University of Derby has equipped them to meet that challenge.

A team of researchers from disciplines such as health psychology and bioscience has devised a range of teaching resources, toolkits and techniques which help healthcare students in higher education to develop the attitudes and skills they need to excel throughout their future careers.

Aimed at improving the academic achievements and lifelong learning skills of students in medicine, nursing, health sciences, health psychology, biological sciences and other allied health disciplines, the materials have now been incorporated in teaching strategies at universities around the world.

The resources are based on extensive studies undertaken at the University to explore more effective ways of improving academic integrity by enhancing critical thinking and reducing the risk of plagiarism on health-related courses.

The researchers’ work is aligned with the priorities of government, professional and regulatory bodies, including the Department of Health and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which promote high standards of academic literacy and evidence-based healthcare practice.

One of the most influential outcomes is the Critical Thinking Toolkit (CriTT), which helps identify students’ development needs. Providing greater validity and reliability than previous measures, the CriTT has proved particularly valuable for nurse educators who must show that their students have improved their critical thinking skills – an attribute which is notoriously difficult to demonstrate.

Now translated into a number of languages including Arabic, Chinese and French, the toolkit forms part of professional development and study skills modules at various UK universities and has been used by practitioners and researchers as far afield as Canada and Slovenia.

The research team has also focused on raising the profile of academic integrity as a specific scientific field and practice, including in-depth analysis of how the concept is interpreted in different countries and cultures. This research has led to the European Network of Academic Integrity (ENAI) producing handbooks, teaching aids, case studies and self-evaluation tools to engage staff and students, with particular emphasis placed on ethical dilemmas in healthcare. Available online in seven languages, the materials have been taken up by universities in over 30 countries.

The researchers developed ways to help students avoid unintentional plagiarism by strengthening their ‘authorial identity’ – their sense of themselves as authors and their understanding of the concept of authorship. This provides a positive, constructive way to instruct students about avoiding plagiarism than traditional ‘things-you-mustn’t-do’ approaches, and has been incorporated in the academic integrity and plagiarism policies of universities around the world, including in Canada and Hong Kong.

Research from the University of Derby has provided vital insights which forge practitioner pathways that help healthcare and allied health students to develop those critical skills that are the foundation of their future professional practice.

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