• reflection;
  • reflective practice;
  • critical reflection;
  • graduate nursing education;
  • palliative care

The use of reflection in a palliative care programme: a quantitative study of the development of reflective skills over an academic year

Reflection has gained a reputation for encouraging the integration between theory and practice within professional education. However, this reputation is based on an evidence base that mostly consists of theoretical debate. The aim of this study was to test our experience that the ability to reflect is developmental and that some reflective skills are harder to achieve than others. The research was undertaken by assessing the degree to which registered nurses achieved reflective criteria within assignments submitted for a variety of palliative care undergraduate modules. A total of 160 assignments were analysed using a marking grid constructed from a literature review and the results were compared between students and across academic terms. The results suggest that students are able to describe their practice but find it harder to analyse knowledge, the context of care and to action plan. Nevertheless, reflective abilities developed over time with significant developments made between each term. However, the development of skills indicative of critical reflection was less evident and confined to the ability to raise implications for future learning. The lack of multivariate analysis limits the study. However, the findings build on previous research and prompt questions for future work, particularly with respect to the process of reflection and how this can be supported in order to encourage the development of critical reflective skills.