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Workplace learning – a healthcare perspective

Camille Cronin (University of Essex, Southend-on-Sea, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 6 May 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore the complex relationship between the learner and the learning environment. As a method case study research was employed to examine the student's experience of the learning environment. Work experience is considered to be an essential course requirement for vocational programmes throughout the world. This paper exclusively describes the learning environment and presents a number of significant processes that the learner experiences, each one having an impact on the learning experience. This paper will be of interest to policy makers, academics and educators who face the challenge of trying to understand how students learn in the workplace.


Case study research was used to systematically investigate the learning environments and examine five students’ experience of learning in healthcare settings which included nurseries, nursing homes and hospitals while studying on a two-year health studies Further Education (FE) programme. Through critical incident interviews, observations and documentation data were collected and analysed.


This study has identified the learning environment as a complex entity comprising of six significant processes: physical environment, interaction communication, self-awareness, tasks, feelings and learning. These processes illustrate the multidimensional nature of the learning environment, how dependent they are on each other and how they coexist within the learning environment.

Practical implications

In studying this particular student group many similarities have been found with pre-registration nurses and other professional groups studying on undergraduate programmes in higher education who rely on the “workplace” for learning, particularly where the workplace may provide up to half the educational experience in a programme's curriculum.

Social implications

This study only really provides a snapshot of a number of healthcare settings that exist in one geographical area, and coupled with the size of the sample itself further limits the study. However, what is inherent in qualitative research particularly in a case study design is the focus on in-depth contextual data.


This paper is unique as it examines the learning experience of students on a health studies programme in FE. It describes and discusses their experience of workplace learning.



The author would like to acknowledge the students who participated in this study, all the placements and educational institutions and the supervisory support throughout this work from Dr Peter Martin.


Cronin, C. (2014), "Workplace learning – a healthcare perspective", Education + Training, Vol. 56 No. 4, pp. 329-342.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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