Journal of Nursing Education

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The art of scholarship and the essence of sustained education for faculty in schools of nursing

Mary L Welter

Abstract

"When ideals have sunk to the level of practice stagnation is the result."

-A. N. Whitehead

In recent months a seemingly endless collection of speeches, papers, and reports on the topic of education in general and nursing education in particular has appeared in the literature. The inference which can easily be drawn from any one of these sources is the great need for programs of sustained education for participating faculty in universities. The term sustained education is used to mean an on-going program designed to meet the educational, administrative, and cultural needs of the participants to enhance their effectiveness as teachers.

Examination of the demography of the faculty of the collegiate school of nursing discloses that the aver age faculty member has progressed to the position from a hospital school of nursing. The knowledge acquired in subsequent collegiate undergraduate and graduate programs is frequently fragmentized and unintegrated. It seems likely that this pattern of nursing education will continue for the next several years. Existing educational deficits will be the burden of most potential faculty members for years to come. The nurse faculty member usually has been through a highly specialized system of preparation constructed to provide good quality clinical nursing, nursing service, and nursing education. From the beginning her orientation has been geared toward service to persons in the industrialized service agency. As she studies she is closely supervised and directed by administrative concern for orderliness, for efficiency, and for meeting the standards of others in relation to the policies, procedures, and mores of the agency.

Along with the nurse's appointment to the university as a faculty member comes tacit acceptance of the title "scholar." Even though she has been a student for six or more years, there is no guarantee that she learned to be a scholar. If the title of scholar is taken seriously, as responsibility dictates it must, an understanding of the term and the onus of being a member of a community of scholars is required. It is at this point that a program of sustained education will help the faculty member to adjust to her new role in her profession.

In an effort to assist faculty to achieve progress and satisfaction in the university setting, administrators have tried many stopgap activities at points of obvious need. They offer intensive short-term courses semiannually or annually, time and money for attendance at conferences and courses miles away from the home campus, and educational leaves of absence with or without salary. These arrangements are only a few of those implemented to assist faculty to achieve educational progress and personal satisfaction. These programs are carried on enthusiastically because administrators realize and agree with the 1957 report of the National Education Association Educational Policies Commission which stated in part:

No matter what may be its material resources and programs, a college or university cannot rise above the level of quality of its faculties ... A competent and responsible faculty is the prime requisite of an institution of higher learning. 1

The administrators are to be commended for their foresight, but unfortunately the stopgap pattern of taking courses and acquiring information perpetuates previous learning activities which have not always produced scholarly behavior. To learn as a scholar, a person must be open to experience and be able to acknowledge and give fair consideration to new ideas even though his deepest convictions are challenged. The attitude which leads to learning is: There may be a better idea or a better method. There must be a questioning of ambiguity and an acceptance of the challenge that there is no final answer. Scholars must…

"When ideals have sunk to the level of practice stagnation is the result."

-A. N. Whitehead

In recent months a seemingly endless collection of speeches, papers, and reports on the topic of education in general and nursing education in particular has appeared in the literature. The inference which can easily be drawn from any one of these sources is the great need for programs of sustained education for participating faculty in universities. The term sustained education is used to mean an on-going program designed to meet the educational, administrative, and cultural needs of the participants to enhance their effectiveness as teachers.

Examination of the demography of the faculty of the collegiate school of nursing discloses that the aver age faculty member has progressed to the position from a hospital school of nursing. The knowledge acquired in subsequent collegiate undergraduate and graduate programs is frequently fragmentized and unintegrated. It seems likely that this pattern of nursing education will continue for the next several years. Existing educational deficits will be the burden of most potential faculty members for years to come. The nurse faculty member usually has been through a highly specialized system of preparation constructed to provide good quality clinical nursing, nursing service, and nursing education. From the beginning her orientation has been geared toward service to persons in the industrialized service agency. As she studies she is closely supervised and directed by administrative concern for orderliness, for efficiency, and for meeting the standards of others in relation to the policies, procedures, and mores of the agency.

Along with the nurse's appointment to the university as a faculty member comes tacit acceptance of the title "scholar." Even though she has been a student for six or more years, there is no guarantee that she learned to be a scholar. If the title of scholar is taken seriously, as responsibility dictates it must, an understanding of the term and the onus of being a member of a community of scholars is required. It is at this point that a program of sustained education will help the faculty member to adjust to her new role in her profession.

In an effort to assist faculty to achieve progress and satisfaction in the university setting, administrators have tried many stopgap activities at points of obvious need. They offer intensive short-term courses semiannually or annually, time and money for attendance at conferences and courses miles away from the home campus, and educational leaves of absence with or without salary. These arrangements are only a few of those implemented to assist faculty to achieve educational progress and personal satisfaction. These programs are carried on enthusiastically because administrators realize and agree with the 1957 report of the National Education Association Educational Policies Commission which stated in part:

No matter what may be its material resources and programs, a college or university cannot rise above the level of quality of its faculties ... A competent and responsible faculty is the prime requisite of an institution of higher learning. 1

The administrators are to be commended for their foresight, but unfortunately the stopgap pattern of taking courses and acquiring information perpetuates previous learning activities which have not always produced scholarly behavior. To learn as a scholar, a person must be open to experience and be able to acknowledge and give fair consideration to new ideas even though his deepest convictions are challenged. The attitude which leads to learning is: There may be a better idea or a better method. There must be a questioning of ambiguity and an acceptance of the challenge that there is no final answer. Scholars must be receptive to the alternative way of thinking. Endless possibilities and opportunities for growth in depth and breadth can be provided in a faculty program of sustained education.

Industry, including hospitals, recognizes the value of continuing education for employees. Programs of inservice education, for which the outlay of capital has been sizeable, have been expanded to include all personnel. This would not be the case if the programs did not produce positive results for the industry. At first the usefulness of the programs to management was apparent at the level of the uninitiated worker whose general abilities needed sharpening to assure adequate performance in a specific situation. As time went on, these programs were expanded to upgrade workers to more complex assignments. Management's concern stems from its responsibility for the performance of tasks delegated to others. These programs still are provided under organizational control, and personnel connected with the enterprise are required to participate.

In a program of sustained education for the members of a community of scholars, the value of such activity stems from the membership, the faculty. This is so because the responsibility for the central task of teaching and research rests with the faculty, whereas the responsibility for facilitating performance and improving effectiveness rests with the administrative body. Certainly administrators are concerned about the pessimistic reports which raise questions about the qualifications of teachers and predict a ten-year downward trend in the academic preparation of new teachers.

The marked expansion of programs of higher education have caused the once well-ordered and uncomplicated life in the college and university to become intricate and complex. The existing architectural separations, specialization differences, and imponderables which have multiple causes can be minimized with a program of sustained or on-going education. The community of scholars, a community of human beings, is faced with the same basic human needs for security, productivity, and adaptability found in any community. Sustained education is a method of communication which meets the basic intellectual needs of scholars as they function in the community.

In order to keep sustained education as practical as possible, time allowances for pursuing the program must be considered. The incantation to "reduce teaching loads in order to free faculty" is not feasible unless the reduction is the result of more efficient and effective methods of teaching. Certainly there are more efficient and effective methods of teaching yet untapped. One of the factors influencing the allocation of time is motivation of the concerned faculty. Busy work tends to be eliminated when time is planned to include desirable activities. Rather than wait for time to become available, it is essential to plan within the existing framework. The inability to find time might be viewed as an escape mechanism to protect the status quo and avoid scholarly performance. The arguments for internships, assistantships, and other methods of indoctrination are also offered. These systems have merit which is short-lived because usually they are limited to the uninitiated or the beginner. The need for orientation and on-going education is not at all limited to the beginner. As educators we subscribe to the belief that learning is a requirement of living, yet we tend to negate this philosophy by ceasing to be concerned beyond the initiation phase.

While the structure and philosophy of the programs of continuing education for faculty are similar to that of other programs in different settings, the programs are not identical and therefore should not be given the same name. The differences are understood when the structure of the setting is understood. The similarities are clear if the needs of individuals working together toward a common goal are understood. Sustained education is a program to emphasize depth and breadth of scholarship rather than the sharp specialization which characterizes graduate work. It is not a program to remedy deficiencies; it is a program to help the faculty to continue learning.

In the process of examining the structure and philosophy of the program of continuing education in the university the objective of the program must be clarified. This objective can be as detailed as the situation demands, although the essence succinctly stated might be: (l)tounderstand the function of the scholar and (2) to live as a scholar in a community of scholars. The behavioral outcomes are the acid test.

In its phases the pattern of the program will be similar to other programs of continuing education. The new member will need orientation to the purposes and policies of the university and the role of the new member in the community. She will need to understand the methods of communication within the community in order to function effectively, and, in this phase, differences in need become apparent to the new member. She now is ready to plan with the staff for her individual program of sustained education.

The departmental phase will start as the new member works within the established lines of the organization. Ultimately this phase of the program assists the faculty to understand fully the functions of one department and its responsibility to the other segments of the organization. This understanding will lead to the interdepartmental phase, the unifying phase of the program. Here, specialists from the various disciplines pose questions about what is going on in each discipline in an effort to stimulate professional awareness and commitment Here, too, is examined the knowledge which is needed byyond the mastery of the subject. It has been said that education is not one subject but a galaxy of subjects. The interdepartmental phase of the program exposes the inexperienced teacher to the master teacher in a manner which produces the widening and opening of vistas of study which will equip her to improve her own teaching. Since the student is a product of the university, it is essential that the faculty work together, rather than in isolation, to accomplish the purpose of the university.

The method of carrying on the program of sustained education is the method and technic adapted to the adult learner. The learner uses that which is known to uncover the unknown. The concept of academic freedom assigns implicit responsibility for self-discipline, which includes keeping up with and adding new knowledge. This program cannot be imposed on the individual scholar but must grow from the group as they improve their contribution to the university.

BIBLIOGBAPHY

  • The Commission of the Professors of Adult Education: Adult Education -A New Imperative for Our Times, The Adult Education Association of the U.S.A. 1961.
  • Editorial Board of Nursing Science: Selecting Your Career in Nursing, Nursing Science 1: 78-84, 1963.
  • Education Policies Commission: Higher Education in a Decade of Decision, Washington, National Education Association of the United States, 1957, p.78.
  • Givens, Paul R.: Varieties of learning experiences in the college classroom, 77te Educational Forum, 27:437-440, 1963.
  • Goldwin, Robert A.; Nelson, Charles A. ( Eds. ): Toward the Liberally Educated Executive, New York, Mentor Books, The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 1960.
  • Matheney, Ruth V.: The tragedy of the report of the Surgeon General's Consultant Group on nursing, Nursing Science, 1: 4-10, 1963.
  • Miller, Mary A.: In Service Education for Nursing Service Personnel, New York, National League for Nursing, 1958.
  • National Education Association: Teacher Supply and Demand in Universities, Colleges, and Junior Colleges, Washington, National Education Association, 1963.
  • Raab, George E. and Alvin M. Wescott: What Ails College Teaching?, The Education Forum, 27: 307-12, 1963.
  • U.S. Surgeon General's Consultant Group on Nursing: Toward quality in nursing: Needs and goals, Public Health Service Publication 992, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D. C, 1963.
  • Weir, Edward C: The open mind; an essential in teaching and learning, The Educational Forum, 27:429-435, 1963.
  • White, Dorothy T.: Have our values in nursing really changed -or were we sidetracked? Nursing Science, 1: 48-57, 1963.
  • Wieman, Henry N. : Purpose and discipline in education, The Educational Forum, 27: 279-288, 1963.

10.3928/0148-4834-19640401-05

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