Factors Influencing the Process of Critical Thinking Among Health Professionals During Computer Conferencing: A Case Study
Clark Green, Mary
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Despite the growing amount of research evidence regarding effective clinical interventions, rehabilitation health professionals face many barriers in applying this new information to practice. Computer conferencing among health professionals can create new learning environments for critical thinking, specifically, structured reflection, case application, and peer consultations, which are considered important strategies in research utilization. This case study of 10 rehabilitation health professionals who had successfully completed a graduate level course on reasoning and decision making used content analysis from three data sources: computer transcripts, semi-structured interviews and learner journals. These analyses were designed to explore how health professionals use computer conferencing to integrate new knowledge to practice, how instructors facilitate critical thinking in computer conferences and whether the learners felt this technology would be useful in helping health professionals to apply new knowledge to practice. The results indicate that instructor facilitation and instructional design are important factors in fostering critical thinking among health professionals during computer conferencing, and peer discussions are important during all phases of critical thinking and research utilization. All learners felt the technology would be useful in helping health professionals apply research to practice. They found the asynchronicity allowed time for deeper and more thoughtful reflection than face-to-face situations, and the act of writing helped to make the implicit of their reasoning explicit and understandable to others. Learners, however, felt that a skilled facilitator, peers with similar clinical backgrounds, and individual motivation were also important factors for success.