Pedagogical implications of approaches to study in distance learning: developing models through qualitative and quantitative analysis
The need for flexibility in the delivery of nurse education has been identified by various initiatives including: widening the entry gate; continuous professional development; and the specialist practitioner. Access to degree level programmes is creating the need to acquire academic credit through flexible learning. The aim of this study was to further develop relationships between the need for guidance, materials design and learning styles and strategies and how these impact upon the construction of meaning. The study is based on interviews of 20 female community nurses purposively selected from the 96 respondents who had previously completed a survey questionnaire. The interviews were underpinned by theories relating to learning styles and approaches to study. Of particular concern was how these variables are mediated by student context, personal factors and materials design, to influence the need for support and guidance. The interview transcripts were first analysed using open and axial coding. Three approaches to study emerged from the data — systematic waders, speedy-focusers and global dippers — which were linked to other concepts and categories. Categories were then assigned numerical codes and subjected to logistical regression analysis. The attributes of the three approaches to study, arising from both qualitative and quantitative analysis, are explained in detail. The pedagogical implications of the three approaches to study are explained by their predicted relationships to other variables, such as support and guidance, organization of study, materials design and role of the tutor. The global dipper approach is discussed in more detail due to its association with a variety of predictor variables, not associated with the other two approaches to study. A feedback model is then developed to explore the impact of guidance on the global dipper approach. The paper makes recommendations for guidance to students using different approaches to study in distance learning.