‘The Use of Visual Metaphor as Social Object; Driving Processes in Autoethnography as an Alternative Lens for Reflective Practice’


Please describe the innovation you have developed

A visual metaphorical journey, constructed very basically using pictures and photographs was the means of students expressing their perceptions of their journey through the module. Introducing the methodological approach of autoethnography was a mechanism of allowing students to introspectively reflect on whether their experience of using metaphors was valuable or not in terms of meaning making. It was seen as a necessary step in the research as it was a more methodologically robust mechanism by which students could articulate how the metaphorical journey had provided them with a means of expressing their educational transformation across the module. Otherwise this could have been seen as a purely self-indulgent means of expression. The findings from this intervention were a source of illuminating how these two approaches, when used together might heighten the concept of meaning making for students in terms of their capacity for self-expression, self-awareness, feelings and sense-making of the world of education in general and this module in particular. The mediational role of metaphor in facilitating the meaning of making around the transformative impact of education for international students that would not be limited by expression in a second language (English) became a key feature of this work. The visual imagery that they provide students with is a mechanism of memorising more easily the key features of transformative change and development associated with the core processes of educational engagement. Metaphors also facilitate the development of sematic gesturing which incorporates Vygotskian theories around the importance of psychology in dealing with meaning making in language earning and expression.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

Teaching transformative education is impossible to undertake authentically without facilitating students in their understanding of the need to make meaning of experience, which is rooted in the philosophical backdrop of Social Constructivist approaches to educational provision. Traditional models of reflection in healthcare such as Gibbs and Schön offer a minimal theoretical lens through which experiential learning can be assessed with any degree of methodological rigour. Producing a social object which could be used to drive processes of autoethnography as a mechanism of exploring the potential for improvement in this field were chosen as pragmatic approaches that could be adopted purposively with any given cohort of students and actively compared with subsequent cohorts.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

This innovation offers a new mechanism for healthcare practitioners to undertake reflection. It affords all healthcare disciplines the opportunity to move beyond typically only reflecting on critical incidents and work events, which are actually an embedded part of their lifeworld and holistic experience as a human first and a practitioner second. As care and compassion are pivotal areas for improvement in all health and social care provision, this offers a practical means of doing so but also provides a theoretical lens through which it can be evaluated.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

Autoethnography is a longstanding qualitative methodological approach. the production of visual metaphors can be inexpensively facilitated and with basic software packages can provide a useful social object (picture) with which students can engage, develop and incorporate into their Continuous Professional Development pathways.

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

Feedback from students has been exceptionally positive and the research has been well received at regional and national conference level as a creative step and innovative approach to pedagogic practice for healthcare practitioners. The project has been used as a precursor to the integration of Lego Serious Play in the faculty as a means of enhancing student understanding of Social Constructionism as an extension of Social Constructivist approaches to pedagogic practice.

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

Student Testimonials of Positive Impact

‘…I could never have imagined using metaphors to develop deeper meanings of life true past events, present struggles and future ambitions in a most spectacular way.’

…’it helped me in constructing my own meaning and as a way of communicating my ideas and dreams. More so, as nursing is a discipline in transition, inculcating the use of metaphor to relate abstract ideas to a real life event, will help students develop their metacognitive skills.’

This piece of work has awakened my awareness and made me understand my purpose in my chosen profession. I cannot under estimate the fact that it has broadened my academic scope by igniting my criticality…’

‘The metaphor project has really helped me to know who I am, and re-directing me on the right track am supposed to be to make me a better person. This module was a great deal to me, I must say I enjoyed every bit of it….’

‘Permit me to say that it is the most interesting module that I have done…the journey through this module has been amazing. I enjoyed every bit and minute spent in this module. It helped me to bring abstract things to reality (real life), encourages critical thinking and reflection. The metaphor project is a form of transformational learning.’

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

Hayes, C (2015) Introducing Autoethnography as a Methodology for Focused Introspection by Professional Doctorate Students. In: the Annual NE Universities (3 Rivers Consortium, Regional Learning and Teaching Conference, 27 Mar 2015, University of Sunderland Prospect Building – Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St. Peters.

Hayes, C (2015) Meaning Making in Learning-Journeys – The Metaphor Project (A Collaborative Staff/Student Partnership Project with Postgraduate International Nursing Students). In: Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching, University of Sunderland Learning Enhancement Annual Conference, 3 July 2015, University of Sunderland, UK.

Hayes C, Devlin S, Westwood D and Fulton JA (2015) Postgraduate International Students Self-Discovery in Learning through Metaphor; Engaging Autoethnography as a Mechanism for Critical Introspection, Researching, Advancing & Inspiring Student Engagement (RAISE) Conference, Nottingham, September 10th -11th, 2015

Westwood D, Devlin S & Hayes C (2015) Finding Your Inner Graduate through Metaphor and Storymaking, Researching, Advancing & Inspiring Student Engagement (RAISE) Conference, Nottingham, September 10th- 11th, 2015

Devlin, S, Hayes, C and Westwood, D (2015) Helping students find their inner graduate using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. In: Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching, University of Sunderland Learning Enhancement Annual Conference, 3 Jul 2015, University of Sunderland, UK.

Hayes, C (2015) Meaning Making through Transformative Learning for HCA Education. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants. ISSN 1753-1586 (In Press)

Hayes, C (2015) Building Compassion – Introducing LEGO Serious Play to HCA Education. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants. ISSN 1753-1586

Hayes C (2015) Postgraduate International Students Self-Discovery in Learning through Metaphor; Engaging Autoethnography as a Mechanism for Critical Introspection for SAGE Research Methods Cases, OU Press

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

Higher Education Academy Conference (Glasgow) 24th/25th February 2016 (Abstract to be submitted prior to deadline of 10th December 2015