3. Presentation of the research

3.2 Context of the research

3.2.2 Getting to know the profession: Interviews

In order to better understand the Community Health Care Assistants (ASSC) profession and the challenges encountered both by apprentices and professional workers, a series of interviews were conducted with apprentices and members of the professional association. Apprentices were asked information about their motivation in choosing this particular professional learning path and their ideas and feelings about their education. Additionally, they were asked about their access to and use of technology. The members of the professional association were interviewed to understand the positioning of this professional role within the other health care professions. Additionally, an ongoing discussion and collaboration has been initiated with two teachers of the school, and school courses were observed.

3.2.2.1 Interviews with apprentices

Five apprentices (4 III year and 1 II year) were interviewed using a semi-structured interview. In this exploratory discussion, apprentices were asked about their motivation towards the profession, their impressions about workplace, school and the articulation between the two settings, and their ease with technologies. Five interesting themes emerged from these interviews and are reported below.

Motivation for the choice of the profession

In the first place, as far as the motivation associated with the professional choice is concerned, in one case an apprentice mentioned the fact that he wanted to work in the health care domain, ever since he was a child. Other family members are working in this field and the fact of having assisted his sick father represents an additional motivation. In the other cases, the fact of having experienced this type of professional role through an internship period of a few months represented the strongest motivation to choose the health care. To be in direct relationship with the patients is also considered as a very important motivation.

Future directions in their educational path – One of the learners interviewed mentioned explicitly that her motivation in the choice of the profession was linked with her willingness to continue her educational

71 path in order to become a nurse (rejoining tertiary education). On the other hand, the other apprentices interviewed mentioned their willingness to work in quality of ASSC at least for a few years. In two cases, they explicitly mention their willingness of picking up a new educational path eventually.

“ In the near future, I would like to work as a ASSC, while afterwards I would like to pick-up a new professional education path... I don’t know yet... maybe nurse or ambulance man, I have to decide”.

Relationship with other professional roles

Apprentices mention the fact that it was not always easy for them to define their role and find their space between the other health care professionals. This is probably a consequence of the fact that, as mentioned above, this professional role is a quite new educational path, forming to a profession that will complement two already existing professions.

“The relationship with the colleagues depends a lot on the different workplace organisations. In some places I found myself to work better with the health aids, in others with the nurses. Because of the way our profession is conceived, we are always in the middle, always trying to find our place. I think it will be possible in the future to define our professional role, but this will take time. It is hard because it is a new role and additionally it is in between to existing ones.”

Articulation of school and workplace learning

A more critical aspect emerged from these interviews when discussing about the articulation of school and workplace learning. In this case, apprentices mentioned how the information obtained in the two environments is not always consistent and sometimes this creates confusion:

“We have the theory here and the practical experience at the workplace and we can see that the two are not always in agreement, it is not always the same. (…) [In school]

everything is perfect, but in the workplace everything will be faster and less structured than at school, I’d say. Teachers tell us that workplace practice is not the same we see in school, but cannot prepare us, as each workplace will differ from the others.”

Additionally apprentices mention the fact that workplaces can be quite different from each other and this may result in a different preparation of the apprentices. This represents an additional challenge for learners.

What could be done to support apprentices in their learning

Learners consider that it would be interesting to dedicate some time at school to discuss about workplace experience, in order to share the situations encountered and discuss them with both colleagues and the teachers. They consider that it would be useful to hear others’ opinions on possible ways to handle a

Giulia Ortoleva  Writing to Share, Sharing to Learn

72 difficult situation and discuss this with the teacher. This is an existing practice in school but scarcely implemented and one learner mentions that they need sometimes to insist so that this type of activity is conducted.

Access and use of technologies

All apprentices declared to be at ease with the use of technologies. They mentioned, for example, having access to internet basically everywhere (home, school, on portable devices), and they said that their use of technology is directed both towards leisure and hobbies, as well as towards their learning. In relation to this last point, they mentioned using internet and computer for their school activities, as well as for searching information and clarifications in relation to their workplace practice.

3.2.2.2 Interview with members of professional association

The interview with the members of the professionals association of ASSC focused on the challenges and difficulties encountered by apprentices in their work and on the relationship with the other professional roles ASSC collaborate with. Some interesting and critical points emerged throughout this discussion, which partially correspond to the ones cited by the apprentices in their interviews.

The emotional charge of the profession

The members of the professional association underlined how this role is often very charged emotionally, as apprentices are asked to work with sick people in all sorts of situations, from retirement houses to psychiatric hospitals. They consider this aspect as particularly critical in consideration of the fact that apprentices in this profession are often very young. They are often confronted with death as well as with the intimacy of their patients in their work and sometimes do not have the maturity to handle these types of situations. They need an adequate support system as well as the possibility to externalise and discuss the situation they are facing, as well as their feelings in this respect.

Definition of the role of ASSC

As previously mentioned by the apprentices, the role and position of ASSC in health institutions is yet to be completely defined. In this sense, the responsibilities and tasks that can and should be associated with this profession aren’t widely recognised as yet.

“In some institutions ASSC can do various things among the things thought in school. In others there are more constraints. I think that an assistant working in a retirement home and one working in an hospital should be doing always the same job.”

“We do many things. We have various responsibilities and we are instructed and prepared to have them, even though we are not always recognized as responsible”.

73 Relationship with other professional roles

As a consequence of the previously mentioned issues regarding the definition of the role of ASSC, and in reason of the fact that two other previously established professions share with ASSCs some of the tasks and responsibilities, the relationships with the colleagues working in the health domain are sometimes difficult. According to the members of the professional association, both nurses and health aids reveal sometimes a confrontational behaviour with ASSC, worrying about the possible impact that this would have on their professional role in the future. In this sense, there could be a modification in this behavioural patterns in the future, once there will be a bigger recognition of the role ASSC have and how it relates to the other professions. However, the situation at this stage may sometimes be critical for apprentices joining a workplace and having to face this confrontational attitude.

3.2.2.3 Implication of these interviews on the research

For all the various issues mentioned above, we consider that, together with the need for an external higher recognition of the role of this profession in the health institutions, it would also be important to provide learners with the tools needed in order to face their workplace environments. These tools are not only associated with specific professional competences, but also with the definition of a clear professional identity, reflecting the confidence in one’s competence of performing the professional tasks required and the feeling of belonging to a community of professionals. In this sense, all the aspects that emerged from these different interviews and observations conducted in the school confirmed our questioning associated with the challenges presented by the articulation of two different working environments, as well as the importance of the development of both the individual and the social and collective dimensions of learning.

In order to address these key aspects of the profession, we identified a series of aspects as particualry relevant for this professional track and key for the development of an effective pedagogical scenario:

(1) In order to bridge the gap among theory as thought in school and practice lived in the workplace, apprentices are asked to capture real-life experiences encountered in their internships, through the writing activity, and discuss them at school among themselves and with the teachers.

(2) In order to give to all apprentices a wider perspective on the type of working conditions, tasks, challenges and responsibilities their classmates face in their working context, apprentices exchange their real-life experiences, and discuss them together.

3) As the constitution of a clear professional role for ASSC represents a challenge not only for apprentices but even for professional workers, the self-efficacy beliefs of apprentices, and its evolution throughout the curriculum will be explored, analysed and possibly strengthen.

Moreover, the fact that the learners declared being at ease with the use of technology is an additional element confirming the feasibility of the planned scenario.

Giulia Ortoleva  Writing to Share, Sharing to Learn

74 In accordance with the DBR approach described above, these aspects were taken into account for the development and implementation of the learning activity conducted throughout this study. The methodology followed to accommodate these various aspects in this research will be detailed in the following section of this chapter.

Dans le document Writing to share, sharing to learn: technology-enhanced learning activities to foster professional development in initial vocational education (Page 75-79)