Burden, Sarah Elizabeth, Topping, Annie and O'Halloran, Cath (2015) The value of artefacts in stimulated-recall interviews. Nurse Researcher, 23 (1). pp. 26-33. ISSN 1351-5578

Aim To assess the use of artefacts in semi-structured, stimulated-recall interviews in a study exploring mentors’ decisions regarding students’ competence in practice.

Background Few empirical studies have examined how mentors reach a decision when assessing students’ performance in practice. Concerns have repeatedly been voiced that students may lack essential skills at the point of registration or that mentors may have failed or been reticent to judge students’ performance as unsatisfactory.

Data sources Student practice assessment documents (PADs) were used in stimulated-recall (SR) interviews with mentors to explore decision making.

Review methods A review of the literature identified that artefacts can play a role in triggering a more comprehensive retrospective examination of decision making, thus helping to capture the essence of a mentor’s decision over time and in context.

Discussion Use of an artefact to stimulate recall can elicit evidence of thought processes, which may be difficult to obtain in a normal, semi-structured interview. PADs proved to be a valuable way to generate naturalistic decision making. In addition, discussion of artefacts created by participants can promote participant-driven enquiry, thereby reducing researcher bias.

Conclusion Identifying an approach that captures post hoc decision making based on sustained engagement and interaction between students and their mentors was a challenge. Artefacts can be used to address the difficulties associated with retrospective introspection about a unique decision.

Implications for practice/research There is the potential to increase the use of artefacts in healthcare research. SR can also help novice mentors develop their skills in making decisions regarding assessments of students.

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