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This page lists the research that has recently been completed by the Education in Nursing, Midwifery and Health Science Research Group (ENMHSRG).

Undergraduate Communities of Practice: Improving the student experience, leadership skills and professional identify of Bachelor of Midwifery students


  • Dr Sarah List
  • Dr Jane Warland
  • Associate Professor Colleen Smith


University of South Australia Learning and Teaching Development Grant (2013)

Project Overview

Communities of Practice (CoPs) are becoming increasingly widespread in the working environment of professionals, in recognition of the need for more ongoing education rather than the ‘one shot’ workshop for long term supportive learning and professional development. By incorporating a mutually supportive network of likeminded individuals with similar interests and priorities, personal growth can be enhanced in an ongoing manner, and leaders emerge from peripheral roles (Vescio, Ross and Adams, 2006). According to the literature, CoPs have a positive impact on the experience, engagement, and development of professional identity in the workplace, and they are increasingly conducted entirely online or in a blended mode with the progress of communication technologies (Bryk and Schneider 2002; Nussbaum-Bach and Ritter-Hall, 2012). Increasing numbers of students are choosing to study off campus and the loss of physical and psychological ‘connectedness’ to their program and fellows due to this is frequently cited as a reason that students may choose to withdraw (Carr, 2000).  Professional identity and engagement within their community has a significant impact on a student’s decision to continue with their study, particularly in their first year. As CoPs are known to create a sense of belonging and professional identity amongst their members, it is likely that undergraduate students would benefit from involvement with such a community. However, little is known as to how best the CoP may be structured or delivered, what role (directly or indirectly) the university should take in the operation of the community (and whether this may limit student engagement with it), or what the specific benefits to student members of the CoP may be.

The aim of this project is to implement a CoP for undergraduate Bachelor of Midwifery students at the University of South Australia (UniSA), to determine the appropriate role of the university in its operation, and to measure its impact on the experience, professional identity and leadership of students involved with it. 


Bryk A, & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools. New York: Russell Sage.

Carr, S. (2000). As distance education comes of age, the challenge is keeping the students. Chronicle of Higher Education, 46(23).

List S, Warland J, Smith C, (2015) The Challenges of Creating Online Undergraduate Communities of Practice. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education. 7(1): 99-112. 

List S, Warland J, Smith C, Communities of Practice: how can they be structured and utilised to create a sense of community with time-poor students. Paper to International Higher Education Teaching and Learning (HETL) Conference, Anchorage, AK, USA. May- June 2014.

List S, Warland J, Smith C, Undergraduate Communities of Practice: how may they be designed, structured and implemented for the improvement of the undergraduate student experience? Paper to EDULEARN13. Barcelona, Spain. July 2013.

Nussbaum-Bach & Ritter-Hall, (2012). The Connected Learner: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age. Appendix A. Solution Tree Press. Accessed 30/1/2013 http://plpnetwork.com/research-based-professional-development-that-works/

Vescio V, Ross D, & Adams A. (2008). A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(1), 80-91.

Clarifying Curriculum Design Requirements: A Curriculum Mapping Tool


  • Dr George Bradford
  • Associate Professor Colleen Smith
  • Dr David Birbeck
  • Professor Carol Grech


University of South Australia Funded Teaching and Learning Development Grant (2012)

Project Overview

The reality of curriculum design is that educational complexity affords what can be called a hidden curriculum. However, in Australian higher education the focus is increasingly on the rigor and coherency of curriculum design and alignment particularly as accrediting bodies demand education providers to produce evidence of how the intended curriculum is enacted in the classroom. Acknowledging the potential for a gap between ideology and classroom reality provides the context for a project at the University of South Australia (UniSA) to support the Bachelor of Nursing program with design processes, while simultaneously providing a mechanism to surface the a hidden curriculum and avoid a hidden curriculum. The purpose of this grant was to design, develop and trial a curriculum mapping tool for the Bachelor of Nursing.


Dr Colleen Smith (University of South Australia)

Role of Program Director at the University of South Australia


  • Professor Julie Mills
  • Associate Professor Colleen Smith
  • Dr Ruth Geer
  • Ms Susan Gilbert-Hunt
  • Ms Andrea Parks


University of South Australia Commissioned Teaching and Learning Grant (2012)

Project Overview

The project aimed to examine the role of Program Director as it is currently perceived and implemented and consider what needs to be done to improve the outcomes from this role for the staff who undertake it, the students who are affected by it and the university as a whole.

More specifically the project aimed to:

  1. Quantify the benefits to the university of good performance in Program Direction.
  2. Develop a “how to” and resources guide for Program Directors that incorporates successful models of best practice.
  3. Pilot a professional development program for Program Directors that incorporates academic leadership in curriculum development and scholarship of teaching and learning.
  4. Develop a position description for Program Directors that appropriately incorporates academic leadership and curriculum development.
  5. Develop specific promotion criteria that incorporate the role of Program Director and define satisfactory, high and excellent performance in the role.
  6. Market the positive aspects of the role of Program Directors to potential future candidates and their Heads of School.
  7. Embed these developments into future performance management, staff development and academic staff promotion policies and practices.

For more information access the Final Report - Role of Program Director at the University of South Australia.


Professor Julie Mills (University of South Australia)

Promoting resilience and effective workplace functioning in international students enrolled in health courses


  • Tony Azzopardi (Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital)
  • Dr Leonie Cox (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Dr Carol Grech (University of South Australia)
  • Pam Lemcke (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Dee May (Ramsay Health Care)
  • Ass Prof Robyn Nash (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Dr Sandy Sacre (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Dr Yvonne Osborne (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Ass Prof Elizabeth Parker (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Scott Tyler (Princess Alexandra Hospital)


Australian Learning and Teaching Council
$219,739 (2009 - 2011)

Project overview

The aim of the project was to improve the quality of the learning experiences of international students in nursing, public health and nutrition and dietetics, both at university and in the clinical setting. There is a range of evidence to support that international students in these disciplines experience difficulties in relation to particular aspects of the acculturation process as it relates to studying at university and practicing in the hospital setting. This initiative addressed specific problems that commonly arise and cause confusion, frustration and distress for this cohort of students including:

  • Understanding and using appropriate communication in the Australian health system and workplace setting, including professional terminology;
  • Coping with social and cultural adjustments and differences in care practices; and
  • Negotiating the systems related to obtaining licenses to practice in Australia.

Specifically, the project team:

  • conducted an extensive review of the literature relating to teaching and supporting international students, to identify issues, support strategies and effective approaches;
  • consulted key stakeholders including international students, learning and teaching support staff, and language support providers, to identify the major issues relating to the support of international students in Australian health courses;
  • conceptualise a supportive model and sustainable strategy for culture change in tertiary and healthcare institutions to build resilience and effective workplace functioning in international students;
  • developed a framework for capacity-building of staff involved in the clinical facilitation and supervision of international health students;
  • developed a web-based resource pack for universities and health care facilities/services;
  • embedded the resource pack in the health facilities' intranet systems for sustainable access and use and made these resources available online for universities and health facilities across Australia to use and adapt.

Information about the project can be found here.


Dr Carol Grech (University of South Australia)

A/Prof Robyn Nash (Queensland University of Technology)

Understanding academics’ knowledge of, and support needs for, tertiary students with an actual or potential mental health problem


  • Dr Thomas Laws
  • Dr Barbara Parker (Nursing & Midwifery)
  • A/Prof Brenton Fiedler, Mr Peter Hall and Mr Chris Kandunias (Commerce)


UniSA Teaching and Learning Grant
$10,000 (2010)

Project Overview

The mental health of young people is of National and global importance. A growing number of university students with emotional problems when undertaking their studies and many have a mental heatlh disability. Support for these students has improved but several areas are in need of investigation to better inform decision makers. Assessment of student needs as a basis of referral for conselling is commonly undertaken by tutors and academics. There is a paucity of work that identifies the experiences of staff in their pastoral care role within Australian Universities. This mixed method study identified the number of contacts between staff and students and the experiences of staff at two schools at an Australian University. The date produced provides an initial insight into what is substantial gap in educational research and practice. 

Online role-play: learning the pedagogy


  • Dr Jane Warland
  • Morgan Smith
  • Dr Colleen Smith


UniSA Teaching and Learning Grant
$9,809 (2009)

Project overview

This project provided professional education to members of staff in the pedagogy of online role-play so that they could become resource personnel in the School of Nursing and Midwifery and more broadly in the Division of Health Sciences. In order to learn this pedagogy project staff were to produce an online role-play to be piloted in an undergraduate nursing course. Following evaluation the project team were available to assist other academics in the use of online role-play which could be adapted and integrated into other courses in the Nursing and Midwifery programs as well as throughout the Division of Health Sciences.

Clinical handover: An interactive learning tool to promote student engagement


Project Team Members

  • Ms Tina Holmes
  • Dr Jane Warland
  • Dr Liz Horrocks
  • Mr Michael Lewis
  • Ms Skye Bennett

Project Consultants

  • Ms Alison Sarles
  • Ms Kerry Holm
  • Ms Michelle Cunnew


UniSA Teaching and Learning Grant
$9,481 (2009)

Project overview

Integral to the practice of nursing is the capacity of nurses to provide an effective clinical handover and it is an expected competency of all registered nurses (ANMC 2006). In 2005 The Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Healthcare (ACSQHC 2005a) commissioned a comprehensive literature review on Clinical Handover and patient safety. This report identified that there was a need to improve clinical handover. Key stakeholders then took part in a workshop conducted in response to this report and identified an "essential need" for training in clinical handover and called for the development of "training packages for clinical handover competencies" (ACSQHC 2005b p8). This project aimed to address that need.

For any student, but in particular for students with English as a second language, there is an increased need to provide appropriate learning resources for them to gain this important competency. The purpose of this project was to promote student engagement, inter-professional communication and disciplinary knowledge by producing an interactive learning resource to facilitate competence in conducting clinical handover. The Clinical handover project developed a multimedia resource based on four work situated clinical handover techniques.

  1. Nurse-to nurse
  2. Nurse to group of nurses
  3. Taped
  4. Nurse to Doctor (per phone)

The clinical handover interactive learning tool utilised authentic text and real world examples from a hospital environment. This was facilitated through the collaborative partnership with St Andrew's Hospital. This material provides students with a situated learning experience enabling them to transfer theory into practice based learning. Students are provided with a range of clinical situations and are required to solve problems and make critical analysis decisions.


Ms Tina Holmes (University of South Australia) 

Dr Jane Warland (University of South Australia)

Enhancing learning opportunities for nursing students during clinical placements


  • Dr Sally Dew
  • Dr Kay Price
  • Dr Merri Paech


UniSA Teaching and Learning Grant
$9,505.00 (2008-2010) 

Project overview 

The purpose of this project was to build upon the doctoral research of Dew (2007), and in collaboration with nursing students, clinical facilitators and academic staff, develop and evaluate a learning package aimed at enhancing students' clinical decision-making skills while on clinical placement. Registered nurses in Dew's research identified that knowing who has the information to answer their questions and then being able to appropriately question this person are necessary skills to cultivate amongst nurses and therefore nursing students. Where and how this questioning takes place are also important considerations. As participants in Dew's study said, 'the stuff you learn informally is retained better because you relate it to the patient or event'. The experiential learning resource being developed was designed to focus on demonstrating to nursing students how they can create informal learning opportunities to enhance their decision-making skills during a clinical placement. Assisting students to identify and ask those who have the required knowledge to help them, and doing this questioning in acceptable environments and occasions within the clinical context, would optimise their practice-based learning and therefore enhance their confidence to make clinical decisions. The research-based experiential learning resource being developed was designed to assist students to learn how to shift what is currently a passive activity to one in which students are actively involved (they make a conscious choice) in acquiring knowledge and seeking advice. 

Applying the Web Resource Appraisal Process (WRAP) across diverse disciplines: A student centred approach addressing the teaching-research nexus


Prof Vicki Waye (Project leader)

Dr David Gillham (Project leader)

Ass Prof Wendy Lacey (Project leader)


University of South Australia
$ 9897.48 (2009)

Project overview

The Web Resource Appraisal Process (WRAP) is UniSA developed teaching and learning software that guides students in the development of critical reviews of research evidence. This project explored a novel student centred approach provided by the WRAP to address the teaching-research nexus in the discipline of law. Students of law used the WRAP as a step by step guide to selectively access database content in the context of research inquiry. Students were guided by the WRAP to evaluate various sources of information so as to use information to construct logically and compelling cases on questions of legal policy. This was designed to provide students with engaging, flexible learning environments for the development of practice-based disciplinary knowledge. A student centred learning approach was used where students actively and critically appraised research evidence to construct this knowledge using the WRAP.

The effectiveness and appropriateness educational components and strategies associated with insulin pump therapy (IPT): a comprehensive systematic review.


  • Dr Rasika Jayasekara (Principal Investigator)
  • Zachary Munn
  • Dr Craig Lockwood

Reference Group Members:

  • Erica Wright (Chair) (Australian Diabetes Educators Association)
  • Carmel Smart (Australian Diabetes Educators Association)
  • Brad Marney (Australian Diabetes Educators Association)
  • Jane Overland (Australian Diabetes Educators Association)
  • Associate Professor Alicia Jenkins (Australian Diabetes Society)
  • Kim Stanton (Australian Diabetes Society)

Project Officer:

  • Gunhild Cremer (Australian Diabetes Educators Association)


$ 30,000 (2008).

This study was commissioned by the Australian Diabetes Educators Association and funded through the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS). The NDSS is an initiative of the Australian Government administered by Diabetes Australia.

Project overview

The purpose of this study was to establish the effectiveness and appropriateness of approaches to the provision of education for adults with type 1 diabetes using or initiating insulin pump therapy (IPT), and identify the best available evidence on the association between intervals and duration of follow up and the stated outcome criteria.

The full report can be accessed here.

Attitude and use of evidence-based practice amongst complementary medicine practitioners: a descriptive survey


  • Dr Matthew Leach
  • Dr David Gillham (Project leader)


UniSA Teaching and Learning Grant
$10,000 (2008)

Project overview

Over the past few decades, health professions have witnessed increasing pressure to shift from a culture of delivering care based on tradition and intuition, to a situation where decisions are guided and justified by the best available evidence. While there are concerns that many complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners may be cautious about embracing such an approach, no studies to date have effectively tested this assumption.


The aim of this study was to identify the skills, attitude, training and use of evidence-based practice (EBP) amongst CAM practitioners.

Study Design

Descriptive postal survey

Skill, attitude, training and use of EBP were measured using the evidence based practice attitude and utilisation survey (EBASE).

A randomly selected nationwide sample of 400 system-based CAM practitioners (naturopaths, herbalists, homeopaths and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners) who were practicing in a clinical capacity within Australia, were invited to participate in the survey.

Of the 351 questionnaires successfully dispatched, 126 were returned (35.9%). Most practitioners believed EBP was useful (92%) and necessary (73%) in CAM practice. Whilst the majority of clinicians (>74%) reported participation in EBP activities, albeit infrequently, only a small proportion of decisions were based on evidence from clinical trials, with most practitioners relying on traditional knowledge, textbooks and clinical practice guidelines. A lack of evidence, time, industry support and skills were perceived as barriers to EBP uptake.

Whilst the small response rate limits the generalisability of these findings, the sample was considered representative of Australian CAM practitioners. What this study shows is that even though CAM practitioners may be supportive of EBP, education and training is needed to further improve clinician understanding and application of evidence-based practice.


Dr Matthew Leach (University of South Australia)