Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 147–159 | Cite as

‘I could never have learned this in a lecture’: transformative learning in rural health education

  • Sarah Prout
  • Ivan Lin
  • Barbara Nattabi
  • Charmaine Green


Health indicators for rural populations in Australia continue to lag behind those of urban populations and particularly for Indigenous populations who make up a large proportion of people living in rural and remote Australia. Preparation of health practitioners who are adequately prepared to face the ‘messy swamps’ of rural health practice is a growing challenge. This paper examines the process of learning among health science students from several health disciplines from five Western Australian universities during ‘Country Week’: a one-week intensive experiential interprofessional education program in rural Western Australia. The paper weaves together strands of transformative theory of learning with findings from staff and student reflections from Country Week to explore how facilitated learning in situ can work to produce practitioners better prepared for rural health practice.


Aboriginal people Australia Cultural security Experiential learning Rural health Situated learning Transformative learning 



We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the communities in the Midwest without whom, Country Week would not be possible. We would also like to acknowledge the community teachers, the health professionals, the Shires staff and workers, and present and former staff at the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, particularly Judy Riggs, Amanda Fowler of Edith Cowan University, and Simon Forrest from Curtin University for their pedagogical contributions to Country Week over the years.


  1. Billett, S. (1996). Situated learning: Bridging sociocultural and cognitive theorising. Learning and Instruction, 6(3), 263–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bourke, L., Sheridan, C., Russell, U., Jones, G., DeWitt, D., & Liaw, S. (2004). Developing a conceptual understanding of rural health practice. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 12(5), 181–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cass, A., Lowell, A., Christie, M., Snelling, P. L., Flack, M., Marrnganyin, B., et al. (2002). Sharing the true stories: Improving communication between Aboriginal patients and healthcare workers. Medical Journal of Australia, 176(10), 466–470.Google Scholar
  4. Coffin, J. (2007). Rising to the challenge in aboriginal health by creating cultural security. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 31(3), 22–24.Google Scholar
  5. Cranton, P. (2002). Teaching for transformation. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 93, 63–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Freeth, D., Hammick, M., Reeves, S., Koppel, I., & Barr, H. (2005). Effective interprofessional education: Development, delivery and evaluation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Handley, K., Sturdy, A., Fincham, R., & Clark, T. (2006). Within and beyond communities of practice: Making sense of learning through participation, identity and practice. Journal of Management Studies, 43(3), 641–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Henry, B. R., Houston, S., & Mooney, G. H. (2004). Institutional racism in Australian healthcare: A plea for decency. Medical Journal of Australia, 180(17), 517–520.Google Scholar
  9. Humphreys, J., & Solarsh, G. (2008). At-risk populations: Rural. In H. K. Heggenhougen (Ed.), The international encyclopaedia of public health (pp. 242–253). Elsevier: London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  11. Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4(2), 193–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (2009). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  14. Moon, J. A. (2006). A handbook of reflective and experiential learning. New York: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  15. Myers, S. (2011). Life skills training through situated learning experiences: An alternative instruction model. International Journal of Special Education, 26(3), 1–8.Google Scholar
  16. Quay, J. (2003). Experience and participation: Relating theories of learning. The Journal of Experiential Education, 26(2), 105–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Richardson, L. (2000). Writing: A method of inquiry. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 923–948). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  18. Schön, D. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  19. Taylor, E. W. (2007). An update of transformative learning theory: A critical review of the empirical research (1999–2005). International Journal of Lifelong Education, 26(2), 173–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Toussaint, S. (1999). Re-defining the subject of inquiry: Aboriginal health and the problem of medical work practices. New Doctor, 70, 16–18.Google Scholar
  21. WHO. (2010). Framework for action on interprofessional education and collaborative practice. World Health Organization, Geneva: WHO Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Prout
    • 1
  • Ivan Lin
    • 2
  • Barbara Nattabi
    • 2
  • Charmaine Green
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Earth and EnvironmentThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Combined Universities Centre for Rural HealthThe University of Western AustraliaGeraldtonAustralia

Personalised recommendations