Enhancing reflective practice through online learning: impact on clinical practice

Biomed Imaging Interv J. 2008 Jan;4(1):e8. doi: 10.2349/biij.4.1.e8. Epub 2008 Jan 1.


Purpose: Traditionally, radiographers and radiation therapists function in a workplace environment that is protocol-driven with limited functional autonomy. The workplace promotes a culture of conformity and discourages practitioners from reflective and critical thinking, essential attributes for continuing learning and advancing workplace practices. As part of the first author's doctoral study, a continuing professional development (CPD) educational framework was used to design and implement an online module for radiation therapists' CPD activities. The study aimed to determine if it is possible to enhance healthcare practitioners' reflective practice via online learning and to establish the impact of reflective learning on clinical practice.

Materials and methods: The objectives of the online module were to increase radiation therapists' knowledge in planning for radiation therapy for the breast by assisting them engage in reflective practice. The cyclical process of action research was used to pilot the module twice with two groups of volunteer radiation therapists (twenty-six participants) from Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Results: The online module was evaluated using Kirkpatrick's four-level evaluation model. Evidence indicated that participants were empowered as a result of participation in the module. They began reflecting in the workplace while assuming a more proactive role and increased clinical responsibilities, engaged colleagues in collaborative reflections and adopted evidence-based approaches in advancing clinical practices.

Conclusion: The study shows that it is possible to assist practitioners engage in reflective practice using an online CPD educational framework. Participants were able to apply the reflective learning they had developed in their workplace. As a result of their learning, they felt empowered to continue to effect changes in their workplace beyond the cessation of the online module.

Keywords: Education; clinical practice; online learning; reflective practice.