The use of assisted performance within an online social network to develop reflective reasoning in undergraduate physiotherapy students

28 Sep 2012

Background: The development of practice knowledge is an important component of clinical education and reflective reasoning is known to play a role in its development. Online social networks may have some potential for developing practice knowledge by providing tools for clinical educators to guide students’ reasoning practices. Aim: To determine if an online social network could be used to facilitate reflective reasoning in clinical contexts, as it relates to developing practice knowledge. Method: The study was conducted within a South African university, physiotherapy department, using an online social network to facilitate engagement. Tharp and Gallimore’s theory of assisted performance was used as a framework to conduct qualitative analysis of students’ reflective blog posts within the network. Results: The lecturer was able to use strategies within the assisted performance framework to facilitate reflection among students. These included modelling, contingency management, feedback, instruction, questioning and cognitive structuring. The features of the social network enabled enhanced communication between teacher and student, as well as promoted engagement around clinical scenarios. Conclusion: Online social networks can be used to facilitate reflective reasoning as part of the development of practice knowledge by exposing students’ understanding of clinical practice. However, careful facilitation using sound pedagogy is still necessary to guide students to deeper understanding