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Keywords:

  • phenomenological research;
  • experiential learning;
  • nurse education;
  • student nurses;
  • theory-practice debate

This paper provides a report of the usage of a phenomenological research methodology to investigate the influence on clinical practice of pre- and post-registration nurse education which makes explicit use of experiential teaching and learning approaches. The primary aim of the research was to explore the use of a phenomenological research methodology to examine the students'understanding of experiential teaching and learning. The claims made for the use of experiential teaching and learning approaches in both pre- and post-registration nurse courses and how clinical practice is influenced by the experiential learning elements of pre- and post-registration nurse education were also examined. The first stage of the enquiry involved focused non-directive interviews with members of BSc Nursing Studies and MSc Mental Health Branch programmes. Both programmes claim to make use of experiential teaching and learning. The data were analysed using a technique developed by Giorgi. Previous experiences of experiential teaching and learning were probed, student interpretations differentiated, and the relationship between course-based learning using experiential approaches and the implications for it's influence on practice were examined. The second stage of the enquiry has followed up the initial findings, exploring the students'experience of experiential approaches on their courses both in the classroom and in work-based learning situations. The findings are presented and discussed in the context of other studies from both nurse and higher education. Throughout the paper methodological concerns arising are discussed. The paper concludes with the identification of methodological problems arising from the research strategy: the implications of the power nexus created when teachers research students, and issues relating to the use of a phenomenological methodology in a longitudinal study.