This page forms part of the Transcultural Health resource, published in 2004, and is preserved as a historical document for reference purposes only. Some information contained within it may no longer refer to current practice.

Some pointers to aid your learning

Depending upon how you are using the materials within this resource you may or may not require to reflect upon how well prepared you are to optimise your learning. For those of you who are using the materials to support self-directed learning, without institutional support, it will be useful to at least briefly use these notes to review your current learning style.

Plan the time and place for your learning

If you do not explicitly plan when you will find the time you need each week then the text will become an irritating intrusion into your life that you are never on top of.

Recognise that you are committed to creatively using these materials and plan so that you can enjoy it and benefit from it.

Identify in advance set times when you will work on the text.

Remember, in any learning session, it is not the length of time you spend on the task that is critical, it is the quality of your attention to the task in hand that matters. Half-hour bursts of concentrated work is better than four hours of bored persistence.

You will need to plan where you will do your studying.

Try to identify a place with the minimum of distractions, and where family, friends or colleagues know you should be left alone.

You may identify more than one place: for example, one at home and one at work.

Ensure that you have adequate space to spread out your papers; and adequate light.

Managing your working sessions

Try to use this checklist. Have I:

  • broken the job down into smaller tasks
  • set specific targets
  • measured whether I have reached the targets
  • left the work at an interesting and manageable stage at the end of each study session
  • sought help from other people
  • removed or avoided sources of distraction
  • started work promptly
  • tackled the important work.

Reading skills

For those of you who have not been involved in formal learning for some time it might be useful to have available a brief review of how to read effectively. This is not about 'speed reading' - it is about how you use your reading time.

A large proportion of learning time is spent in reading. It is important that you:

  • manage the quantity of reading effectively
  • avoid irrelevant reading
  • read quickly and with understanding
  • learn where to access the most useful material
  • be prepared to seek out a variety of sources
  • develop a questioning attitude to written material; be alert, active and enquiring
  • learn to become selective
  • identify the different styles of reading and use the appropriate style to match the purpose.

There are five types of reading:


  • for example, scanning a telephone directory
  • you know what you are searching for
  • you are looking for it quickly
  • you 'see' every item on the page, but you don't necessarily read them - you ignore anything you are not looking for. Thus, when you discover the item being searched for, you will be unable to recall the exact content of the page.


When you read quickly to gain a general impression as to whether the text is of use to you. You are not necessarily searching for a specific item. Skimming provides an 'overview'; it is useful to look at chapter/section headings, summaries and opening paragraphs. The purpose of skimming:

  • to check relevance of text
  • it also sets the scene for the more concentrated effort that is to follow, if the text is useful

Light reading

Reading for leisure tends to be 'light':

  • we read at a pace which feels comfortable. An average light reading speed is 100-200 words per minute
  • this form of reading does not generally require detailed concentration
  • we read with understand, although we also skim the boring, irrelevant passages.

Word by word reading

This type of reading is time consuming and demands a high level of concentration. Some material is not readily understood and so requires a slow and careful analytical read, for example, unfamiliar words and concepts, scientific formulae. It can take up to an hour just to read a few lines of text.

Reading to study

A method of reading for study is called SQ3R (Robinson, 1970:32-3); the aim is to understand the material in some depth. The method involves five simple steps; Survey, Question, Read, Recall and Review.

  • survey: skim through to gain an overview and not key points
  • question: devise questions you hope the text will answer
  • read: slowly and carefully
  • recall: from memory, write down the main points made by the chapter
  • review: revisit your questions - compare these to your recall and establish how well the text has answered them; fill in any gaps by further reading and note-taking

Reasons for poor reading skills

  • The purpose of reading in unclear
  • The reading pace is inappropriate for the task;
    • too slow enhances your chance of becoming distracted (and bored); slow readers can also lose sense of the content and will have to keep backtracking
    • too fast will result in confusion; or a failure to engage properly with the content
  • Failure to use reading 'signposts', including headings, charts, graphs, introduction, conclusions
  • Pronouncing words individually - a stage of learning to read when words are broken down
  • Failure to underline key words or make notes
  • Insufficient practice; the only way to improve your reading skill is to read

Reflective learning

Throughout your reading you will find it useful to reflect upon your response to what you have read and to consider the relevance for developing your transcultural health care practice. You might find it useful to have in mind Kolb's (1984) Four Stage Model of Learning.

Kolb's (1984) Four Stage Model of Learning

Source: Adapted from Kobl, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs; London: Prentice-Hall

The feedback loop outlined in the figure above includes 4 interrelated elements.

Try something out: (concrete experience: Kolb 1984)

This addresses work-based learning where you plan, implement and evaluate aspects of your work in order to develop your competence. This will enable you to apply general principles derived from the Units to the specific context of your work place. The evaluation phase helps to link your planning to the process of execution and feeds into the next element. It is important to built confidence in your knowledge through an incremental developmental of your practice skills.

Reflect upon it: (reflective observation: Kolb 1984)

This phase focuses upon a structured reflection upon the activities of the previous phase. It requires a willingness to monitor a number of variables simultaneously, and to live with possible ambiguous outcomes; rather than impose arbitrary 'solutions'. In developing transcultural competence an acceptance of the necessary ambiguity that may be part of the process of developing practical competence is a great virtue. We are used to ambiguity being equated with being unprofessional, but actively nurturing an openness to alternative possibilities is an essential element of intercultural competence.

Refer to theory: (abstract conceptualisation: Kolb 1984)

In this phase you actively seek to relate your experience of this exercise in innovatory practice to all your other knowledge and past experience. This will include testing out your experience against knowledge systems you value; for example, nursing theory, prison system disciplinary philosophy or notions of fairness. Insights developed in this phase can then be fed back into a new phase of active experimentation.

Modify and re-plan activity: (active experimentation: Kolb 1984)

You carry out a needs analysis in order to decide what competencies you already have and what are needed. The new concepts provided in these materials are part of an invitation to develop a more complex and sophisticated understanding of the needs present in transcultural health care delivery.

The aim of this text is that it will inform a change in professional practice. It is not about adding to your list of 'knowledge'. Whatever new knowledge or insight you acquire through these materials only has value if you can apply it to your personal professional practice. Thus, the cycle of Kolb's reflective learning, or your version of it, is central to your learning.


Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs; London: Prentice-Hall
Robinson, F.P. (1970) Effective Study. London: Harper & Row