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Putting it all together

In the last of her features on using evidence in practice, Gwyn Owen illustrates how it can work

This is the last piece in the set of five CPD features that have been helping you think critically about evidence, and how you can use it to support the development of your practice.

This one shows how the ideas and processes presented in the previous four articles (Frontline, 5 October to 16 Nov) fit together in practice.

The story I’d like to share with you represents a significant milestone in my personal and professional development.

It is about submitting a successful bid for funding, to develop an electronic resource to help students prepare for their transition onto a physiotherapy programme at university.

Rather than focus on who did what and when, I will look at the thinking that was going on behind the action.

Although this is a story about using evidence to develop a specific learning and teaching resource, I hope that the principles and processes are relevant to the development of your practice.    

To begin at the beginning...

The idea of creating a resource to help students prepare for life on the physiotherapy programme came from hearing students talk about their first term at university.

 It sounded like a roller-coaster ride: the excitement of learning to live and study with a new group of people, mixed in with anxieties about meeting academic, personal, professional and social expectations.  

Their stories – which were effectively qualitative data – spoke of change and of change management.

I could also see, from working with students in personal and professional development sessions, that some people made the transition look very easy, while others were struggling.

My observations led me to collect more data. I wanted to find out what information students got before arriving on the physiotherapy programme.

I figured that if students knew what to expect, the transition should be easier – because they would be able to prepare themselves for change.

Unsurprisingly, students received a mass of information: some of it arrived by post before they started the programme, with the rest presented during the first week of term.

Stepping back, I could see how the volume, style and pace of delivery could make information difficult to digest while managing the demands of starting university.     

I knew from conversations with colleagues outside the department that this situation wasn’t unique to physiotherapy.

Managing the transition into university is an issue that crosses academic disciplines.

That led me to look for evidence of what others were doing in the learning and teaching literature.

A quick search online showed me what other organisations were doing to help students prepare for university.

Inspirational evidence

I was inspired by some of the examples of practice I’d found online and was keen to help students manage change.

So I started to ask myself whether there were alternative ways of presenting the information to students – to help them prepare for the programme, and possibly to free up some time at the start of term to enable them to participate in Freshers’ week.  

As my ideas for a resource developed, I started testing them through informal conversations with students and colleagues.

This informal phase of data collection helped me refine my ideas and gave me the confidence to move them from my head onto a page.

The process of writing itself helped tighten my thoughts, but more importantly gave me something concrete to discuss with my line manager.

My paper made the case for creating an electronic resource that would be made available to students once they had confirmed their acceptance of a place.

The resource would contain information, some preparatory activities and access to an online community.

I knew, from the examples of practice I’d found, that making this resource a reality would require buy-in commitment from within the department and support from other functions within the university.

My preliminary conversations with my line manager were positive: I had collected enough evidence to show that the idea was worth pursuing.  

I was advised to collect more data to test and develop my initial idea, with a view to submitting a bid to the university for funding.  

Encouraged by that feedback, I created a simple questionnaire to test my ideas about the content and delivery of the resource.

It gathered quantitative and qualitative data from first-year students, which I analysed and used as evidence in my bid.

I also went back to the staff I’d approached earlier, for more formal discussion about the resource.     

Aligning my evidence to make the case   

The guidance that came with the funding application form was invaluable.

It told me that I needed to align my bid with the university’s strategic direction and explained the evaluation criteria.

My idea clearly linked with two of the university’s strategic objectives.

That helped me use my evidence (from students, staff and the literature) critically, to make a robust argument to justify the project.

Throughout the writing phase, I sought feedback from colleagues within and outside the department, and kept my managers informed of progress.

I was very specific with my request for feedback  time was tight, and I wanted to draw on individuals’ particular perspectives.

The bid succeeded. I feel that this was because the idea was aligned with the university’s objectives and supported by evidence.

The idea came from conversations with students and was developed by evidence from a range of different sources (literature, empirical data and feedback).

Our working environment is rich in data. The challenge is to think creatively about how we capture and use it as evidence for our practice. fl


How to use this article for your cpd

  • Think back through the features in this ‘Using evidence in practice’ set (Frontline 5 and 12 October, 2 and 16 November).
  • Make a list of what you have learned from working through each piece.
  • Now go back to your notes from the first piece in this set (5 October).
  • It asked you to evaluate your ability to use evidence in support of your practice and to use that analysis in creating a set of learning needs and a CPD plan.


Compare your lists

  • Have you met the learning needs you listed on 5 October?
  • Have you learned things that you had not expected?
  • If you have not met all the learning needs you listed, ask why. For example, was your original list over-ambitious? Were the learning needs you listed not specific enough? Did other things get in your way?
  • What will the learning allow you to do differently?
  • How are you going to apply your new learning to your future practice?
  •  What will you do to meet any unmet learning needs, or to build on your learning to date?
  • Remember to make a note of the date you’ve completed this task.
  • Set a date to evaluate how you’ve applied any learning from this task in practice.
  •  A digital copy of these prompts is available (for you to download, complete and store on your PC/digital device or in your CSP ePortfolio account) in the society’s CPD webfolio.

Sample for yourself

I am developing a sample portfolio to illustrate some of the processes and products discussed in this piece.

This sample portfolio will be available for you to visit soon in the CSP’s CPD webfolio.

Please follow the instructions at www.csp.org.uk/webfolio to find and open the CPD webfolio.

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Article Information

Author(s)

Gwyn Owen

Issue date

7 December 2011

Volume number

17

Issue number

21

Tagged as

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