Recent literature challenges educators to implement student-centered learning approaches such as flexible learning. The HEA position paper (2009) provides suggestions for how open and flexible learning can be integrated within higher education in Ireland. It challenges educators to ensure that their teaching and learning approach fits the curriculum framework yet mimics the demands and complexities of practice disciplines as well as educational authorities. Aikenhead (2004) concept of border crossings fits with practice based disciplines as it allows students to combine the realities of practice in more than one domain thus building the capacity for integrative learning (Higgs, 2008). Initially the concept of flexible learning may seem daunting to educators as it can challenge their personal philosophy of teaching and learning. This became evident when merging Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Simulation flexible learning formats to prepare graduate nurses with transferable skills for practice.
Thus educators adopted a integrative model to guide the linkage between different flexible learning formats so students could make meaningful connections between theory and practice. This began with engaging students to develop insight to real patient care problems through discussion followed by acting out problems to appropriate solution using simulation and then implementing acquired skills in the hospital environments. Nurse educators continuously infused best standards for professional nursing practice throughout the process. This model can be illustrated using four overlapping circles to achieve curricular learning outcomes. A paradigm shift occurred for educators from the philosophical traditional teaching approaches towards an integrative model of learning. Nurse educators designed the model to stimulate critical thinking, individual creativity and enhance performance of psychomotor skills. Adopting integrative models such as PBL and simulation allows educators of practice based disciplines to build and enhance their own teaching capacity.
Higher Education Authority (2009) Open and Flexible Learning Position Paper November http://www.hea.ie/webfm_send/2555 accessed on 16th June 2010.
Higgs, B (2008) Promoting Integrative Learning in first year science In Emerging issues II; The challenges and roles of teachers and learners in higher education NAIRTL.