A bridge to ïbeingÍ a practitioner: the role of pedagogical practice-in-context knowledge in the design, delivery and experience of a capstone subject.

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 40: Curriculum Transformation

June, 2017, 455 pages
Published by
Ruth Walker & Simon Bedford

Issues of ‘pulling the course together’ for students and facilitating the transition to work-life beyond study concern many disciplines. Paramedicine is a particularly challenging environment for curriculum design and implementation given the complexities of being a paramedic and the consequent challenges of providing authentic, contextualised learning experiences for students. Capstone experiences help students to both look back over their course and look forward to life beyond study. Our project to design, implement and evaluate a paramedic capstone subject contributes to thinking about key factors in capstone design. The design is heavily influenced by staff experiences of ‘being a paramedic’. It fundamentally repositions the student from learning about paramedicine, into immersion in lived experiences of the profession.  A traditional learning focus on “content” is replaced by “practice-in-context”. Students experience messy, complex situations. They are required to interrogate, extend and apply their knowledge and understanding. Student performance, and judgements about their own performance are calibrated against industry expectations through conversations with practicing paramedics. Data on student perceptions of the experience indicate that the subject achieved two key objectives: enhancing preparedness for the paramedic role and calibrating students’ learning against industry expectations.

This experience draws on designers’ and teachers’ own lived experience of ‘being’ a practitioner in the discipline. Their ability to help students learn about ‘being’ relies on what we have named pedagogical practice-in-context knowledge. Our evaluation of the curriculum points to the central role of pedagogic practice-in-context knowledge in creating an immersive experience in which students learn to be, by being.

Keywords: capstone experience, design, pedagogical practice-in-context knowledge