University of Pretoria (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 617-624
ISBN: 978-84-617-2484-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
The South African Government has embarked on a concerted effort to address the prevailing human resource constraints in the public health sector. One of these efforts is the use of community healthcare workers (CHCW’s) within the healthcare sector. CHCW’s are new cadres of health care worker who can be employed optimally in community orientated primary health care in order to serve the communities from where these healthcare workers originate. CHCW’s historically underwent two weeks of rudimentary professional development before being deployed in communities. This period of training proofed to be inadequate for these healthcare workers to be optimally equipped to perform essential healthcare services to the communities who require it the most. As an educational intervention, three formal CHCW schools have recently been established within Pretoria, South Africa for the formal education of CHCW’s. The formal contact sessions are blended with authentic workplace-based learning.

As an ongoing action research project, this study uses both qualitative and quantitative research methods and aims to explore ways in which a lecturer as facilitator and assessor of learning can optimally enhance authentic workplace-based learning opportunities for CHW’s. Data was obtained from reflective journals kept by students, formal feedback from students and their peer educators, one-on-one interviews and focus groups as well as the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI™) that assesses thinking preferences, completed by the practitioner-researcher.

CHCW’s initially displayed low levels of empowerment and expected “teaching” instead of facilitating and assessing of learning. Their social and pervasive competence improved dramatically through, inter alia cooperative learning. Reflective journals have successfully been introduced and students record their personal reflections after each learning opportunity. These reflective journals became an empowering educational tool to overcome the stresses of a hostile workplace-based learning environment and for assisting CHCW’s to identify their own thinking style preferences. The incorporation of student-centeredness and whole brain learning resulted in a conducive and enjoyable authentic learning environment for the students. Students are encouraged to suggest topics or themes that arise from their workplace environment towards their own professional development. Students therefore take responsibility for their own and others’ learning. Less ready available and structured sources of information are utilised for the education of students, resulting in CHCW students developing their own textbook.

This action research project provided insight into the optimal promotion of workplace-based learning opportunities offered to CHCW’s and assisted the practitioner-researcher in bridging the gap between the CHCW health science schools and the outside work environment by offering students the opportunity to address authentic real-life problems.
Community healthcare workers, authentic workplace-based learning.