Issues in reflection and debriefing: how nurse educators structure experiential activities

Nurse Educ Pract. 2004 Dec;4(4):264-70. doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2004.01.005.


Experiential learning is particularly useful in vocational education programs where theory needs to be linked to practice. Although experiential learning is often advocated in nursing education and the importance of debriefing and reflection is almost always espoused, the focus in the literature has tended to be on detailed descriptions of the action phase with little close analysis of how the reflective phase is facilitated. The Lewinian model described by Kolb [Experiential Learning. Experience as Source of Learning and Development, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1984] and the structuring approach suggested by Thiagarajan [Experiential Learning Packages, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1980] have been used as the theoretical context for an exploration of how nurse teachers describe their facilitation of the debriefing and reflective phases of experiential learning activities. Explication of the entire planned experiential learning experience is important for increasing the chances of the student being able to close the experiential learning loop. The more covert reflective phases for facilitating experiential learning are crucial and if neglected, or inexpertly and insensitively handled, may at best lead to poor learning outcomes or at worst lead to emotional damage and ;unfinished business' for the student. Interviews with eight experienced university educators elicited descriptions of how they constructed experiential activities with special reference to their descriptions of how the debriefing or reflective phases were structured.