• case study;
  • critical thinking;
  • narrative;
  • nursing education;
  • reflective practice;
  • research in practice


Title. Evaluation of a reflective learning intervention to improve critical thinking in novice nurses

Aim.  This paper reports a study to determine if a reflective contextual learning intervention would improve novice nurses’ critical thinking skills during the first 6 months of their practice.

Background.  Nursing research evaluating the development of critical thinking in novice nursing practice is limited. The continual struggle by nurse educators to improve critical thinking demonstrates the need for innovative educational interventions that assist in the development of critical thinking as novice nurses enter into practice.

Method.  This small case study was conducted in the United States of America in 2004 with six student/preceptor dyads. The contextual learning intervention was the case through which the novice nurses’ critical thinking were analysed using Stake's phases of data analysis. Specific questions (i.e. novice nurses’ use of reflection, context, dialogue, time) guided the analysis. Repeating patterns were coded and isolated and later collapsed/enhanced as the analysis moved forward.

Findings.  Three main themes describe the novice nurses’ development of critical thinking: (1) influence of anxiety and power on critical thinking; putting pieces together; (2) questioning as critical thinking: sequential thinking to contextual thinking; and (3) emergence of the intentional critical thinker.

Conclusion.  Used as a reflective practicum, contextual learning can be a model of clinical learning in nursing education that develops the contextual, reflective nature of critical thinking.