4.2 Identify students who may be facing learning challenges

mod4-student-problemGenerally speaking, students want to hone their clinical skills, get along with their colleagues, supervisors and clients, and succeed in their placements. While many students experience difficulty of some sort during the placement process, it is generally not because they don’t care or lack interest in doing well. It is up to us as educators to help students identify challenges and address them to facilitate student success.

Students enter into learning environments at various performance levels. While one student may proceed through a placement with ease and confidence other students are challenged by the learning environments for many reasons. Students who are facing challenges in the context of a clinical placement may exhibit both learning problems and attitudinal issues.

Learning challenges can be categorized by:

  • Inadequate knowledge and skills;
  • Poor communication with patients, peers, and instructors; or
  • Unprofessional behaviour [1] [2] [3]

Students with learning challenges may:

  • Have difficulty learning or performing up to expectations
  • Be distracted and do not devote full attention to academic responsibilities
  • Be difficult or unpleasant to work with and
  • Not appear to be motivated to learn. [4]

[1] Hayes, K.W., Huber, G., Rogers, J., & Sanders, B. (1999). Behaviours That Cause Clinical Instructors to Question the Clinical Competence of Physical Therapy Students. Physical Therapy, 79(7): 653-667. Available online at: http://physther.net/content/79/7/653.full.pdf+html
[2] Luhanga, F., Yonge, O., & Myrick, F. (2008). Hallmarks of Unsafe Practice: What Preceptors Know. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 24(6): 257-264. doi:10.1097/01.NND.0000342233.74753.ad
[3] Luhanga, F., Yonge, O., & Myrick, F. (2008). Strategies for Precepting the Unsafe Student. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 24(5): 214-219. doi:10.1097/01.NND.0000320693.08888.30
[4] Hendricson, W.D. & Kleffner, J.H. (2002). Assessing and Helping Challenging Students: Part One, Why Do Some Students Have Difficulty Learning? Journal of Dental Education, 66(1): 43-61. Available online at: http://www.jdentaled.org/content/66/1/43.full.pdf