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Untangling critical thinking in educational cyberspace Ronaldson, Sharon Elizabeth

Abstract

This study was methodologically situated within two cycles of insider action research and informed by the blending of the philosophical underpinnings of the interpretive and the praxis paradigms. It was conducted by one nurse-educator-researcher exploring the perspectives of eleven undergraduate student nurses, who engaged with "Nursing Journeys: Virtual Reflective Centre", a researcher-developed virtual, simulation instrument designed to promote critical thinking, while enrolled in a first-year nursing course in a college in British Columbia over a 12- week semester. The study participants kept a reflective journal for the duration of the study and interviews were conducted at the end of the semester. While interviews and journal excerpts were the primary sources of data, participant-observation, field notes and online dialogue transcripts were also used as data collection techniques. The analytic strategy chosen for this study was grounded theory. This study also traced a self-reflective journey of practice as research in an attempt to develop a greater understanding of the teaching and learning process in educational cyberspace. The findings of the study suggested that participants were able to articulate their definition of critical thinking and use this definition to work through the case narratives while role-playing the various virtual characters. The study participants were also able to recognize that they were only beginning to understand critical thinking and that it was not necessarily learned and actualized in a linear, individual fashion. The findings of the study also suggested the facilitation of critical thinking was contingent on a pattern of a way of knowing: Cyber-textual Mediated Knowing and several other factors: time, trust, facilitation, reflection, purposeful decision making in design. Although NJVRC may have properties that have the potential to promote critical thinking, its cognitive dimension was significantly more developed than the affective dispositions of critical thinking. Finally , this study illustrated that the insider action research was a fitting methodology as it offered a systematic approach for educators to unravel the connections made between pedagogy, research and change. Its applicability as an appropriate methodology also served to support the emerging trend of moving nursing research toward an evidence-based model as the basis for advancing educational practices in nursing education.

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