Facilitating a co-constructed learning environment for caregivers in social gerontology : applying the 'Ripples on a pond' model
Fivaz, Francina Magdalena
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Populations are growing worldwide and many governments, including the South African government, are failing to implement training programmes for caregivers of older persons. Educational opportunities in gerontology are offered mainly to registered students in formal curricula and are therefore inaccessible to non-students. It was consequently decided to design and implement an informal training programme on social gerontology. The training programme was presented by the North-West University in collaboration with the United Nations (UN) International Institute on Ageing. Participatory action research (PAR) and the Ripples on a Pond (ROP) model were used to guide the research, which involved nine presenters, 52 participants and three facilitators who facilitated the training programme. The participants' reflections, formal evaluations, voluntary feedback, requested feedback and the group assignment results were collected as data and analysed using thematic content analysis to explore how a co-constructed learning environment could be facilitated. Two main themes emerged from the data, namely knowledge as a resource that could be gained and differentiated so as to enable the identification of specific knowledge needs as well as the transfer of knowledge as resource to different contexts. The second theme concerned the factors that facilitated a co-constructed learning environment. It emerged that group work facilitated collaboration and that the participants engaged on different levels of sharing and participating during the training programme. [t also seemed that the participants' attention was focused through group assignments, through the ways in which the programme was structured and through the content of the programme. The co-constructed learning environment seemingly contributed to the active involvement of the participants enabling them to adopt different positions regarding the use of knowledge as a resource. With the Rap model, the programme created a want and a need to learn in the participants and enabled them to recognise their own contributions as well as the input from others. The co-construction of a learning environment was promoted by focusing the participants' attention on the content by requiring them to complete group assignments. The overlapping processes of the ROP guided the group assignments by creating the need to obtain more information in order to complete the assignments. During the training programme, all the participants contributed to the learning environment by being recognised as active participants and by providing a space for discussions in which constructive feedback was continuously provided. Learning in this sense was thus no longer regarded as a one-dimensional process in which knowledge as a construct was transferred from the presenters to the attendees. The training programme included all the ROP stages of 'wanting', 'needing', 'doing', 'feedback' and 'digesting'. The findings suggest that PAR and ROP have considerable potential to facilitate a co-constructed learning environment. It is therefore recommended that the research findings should be applied to other training programmes involving adult learners.
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