Gallagher, Peter and Ousey, Karen (2007) The theory-practice relationship in nursing: a participatory debate. In: Australasian Nurse Educators Conference, 3 - 5 October 2007, Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand, Wellington.

With reference to the relationship between theory and practice in nursing there is a conventional or orthodox position that comprises three entities. The first is theory, which can be found in textbooks and other activities that are associated with formal education. The second is practice, which is associated with the everyday work of nurses in contact with patients. The third, which is a less tangible entity, is the difference or variance between the other two entities. This third entity is usually referred to as the gap between theory and practice (e.g. Ekbergh, Lepp & Dalhberg, 2001; Falk-Rafael, 2005; Ferguson & Jinks, 1994; Goode, 1998; Prymjachuk, 1990; Vaughan, 1985; Wong, 1979). The belief that theory and practice have different conceptual locations is supported by the fact that usually learning theory and learning practice are analogous with separate physical locations and resources. Most commonly theory is associated with classrooms, teachers and teaching, and practice with the actions performed by nurses in the daily care of patients (Alexander, 1983; Brassell-Brian & Vallance, 2002; Cook, 1991; Goode, 1998; Melia, 1987).Working from the premise that a gap exists, educationalists have attempted to close or at the very least reduce the size of the gap by manipulating those factors. However, the observation that there is still widespread international concern for the continuing problems presented by the gap may suggest that the conventional conceptualisation of an important relationship is itself a barrier and should continue to be debated.

Audience Participation

This paper will be presented as an annotaed debate between the two presenters who hold quite separate views on the existence of a theory-practice gap in education. The audience will be encouraged to ask questions and to enter the debate held between the two speakers

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