A Conceptual Framework for Educational Design to Bridge the Theory Practice Gap

Tuesday, 23 July 2013: 3:30 PM

Yvonne Botma, PhD
School of Nursing (99), University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to..." discuss the relevance of the systemic models of transfer to nursing

Learning Objective 2: he learner will be able to..." design learning opportunities that will bridge the theory-practice gap


Most educators in health care try to enable students to apply what they have learned in classrooms and simulation laboratories to their clinical practice. However, the theory-practice gap remains a contentious issue between faculty and practice. According to a vast number of sources a systemic approach is needed to bridge the theory-practice gap. Various systemic models for transfer of learning refer to personal characteristics, educational design factors, and organisational climate as critical elements in bridging the theory-practice gap. This framework provides tapered information and is a frame of reference to organise thinking, problem-solving and interpretation of educational design elements in different contexts. It is therefore applicable for all educators in health care.


The presenter developed a draft framework based on existing learning theories, constructive alignment, and the elements of effective learning opportunities. Members of the review panel possessed expertise and interest in developing guidelines/models/strategies as well as in educational and clinical practice.  A convergent consensus seeking process was used for expert review. The expert review process was approached in a qualitative manner.  Based on the consensus decisions by the reviewers, adaptions were made to the draft framework. 


The final framework consists of two principles namely establishing a community of learning and the primacy of a learning outcome. The four steps in the process entails 1) activation of existing knowledge, 2) engaging with new information, 3) demonstrating competence, and 4) apply in real world.


Strategies to strengthen educators and clinical facilitators in applying the principles underlying the framework will become key to the value and contribution of this framework. The conceptual framework may guide the methodological approach for future research investigating the design aspect in bridging the theory-practice gap.