Journal of Nursing Education

The articles prior to January 2012 are part of the back file collection and are not available with a current paid subscription. To access the article, you may purchase it or purchase the complete back file collection here

Doctoral Programs in Nursing: An Examination of Curriculum Similarities and Differences

Rita Snyder-Halpern, PhD, RN

Abstract

ABSTRACT

In this exploratory study, eight doctoral programs in nursing (four PhD and four DNS/DSN/DNSc) were surveyed to examine curricular similarities and differences between research-oriented and professional-oriented programs. Content analysis was utilized to examine manifest content of 101 units of analysis derived from questionnaire items. These items reflected environmental input, curricular design, and outcome variables. Findings suggested that more curricular similarities than differences existed between the two program types. Curricular design variables reflected the most differences in the areas of program purposes and objectives. Several areas were identified for additional research in each variable category.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

In this exploratory study, eight doctoral programs in nursing (four PhD and four DNS/DSN/DNSc) were surveyed to examine curricular similarities and differences between research-oriented and professional-oriented programs. Content analysis was utilized to examine manifest content of 101 units of analysis derived from questionnaire items. These items reflected environmental input, curricular design, and outcome variables. Findings suggested that more curricular similarities than differences existed between the two program types. Curricular design variables reflected the most differences in the areas of program purposes and objectives. Several areas were identified for additional research in each variable category.

Introduction

Current trends in the development of doctoral education in nursing reflect an effort on the part of nurse leaders to resolve questions related to several key areas. Leininger (1976), summarizing these areas, encouraged graduate nursing faculty to address 20 specific questions in the development and maintenance of doctoral programs in nursing. Five of these questions address the need to differentiate among the types of doctoral degrees in nursing. These questions are

1 . What should be the major goals and interrelationships of doctoral nursing programs now and in the future?

2. What kinds of doctoral programs do we need and why?

3. What are the basic assumptions undergirding doctoral programs m nursing.'

4. What are the pros and cons of an academic researchoriented degree in contrast with a professional-oriented doctoral degree?

5. How much diversity among doctoral programs in nursing will be needed to meet societal expectations in the future?

Downs (1978) has described the three types of programs that currently comprise the doctoral degree structure in nursing. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is described as a research degree which implies an ability to carry out meaningful research, discover new knowledge, and usually indicates appropriate preparation for university teaching. The Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS, DSN, DNSc) degree constitutes a professional degree which is described as the "highest university award given in a particular field in recognition of completion of academic preparation for professional practice." The Doctor of Education (EdD) degree is described as a generic degree that emphasizes scholarship and research primarily in education at the doctoral level in a manner that is more applied than that found in PhD degree programs.

The development of the pluralistic doctoral degree structure in nursing has been predicated on the assumption that curricular distinctions exist between the types of doctoral degrees in nursing. This assumption is debated among nurse leaders. Downs (1977), Grace (1978), and Kelley (1977) have emphasized the need to differentiate between the types of doctoral programs in nursing in terms of objectives and end products. Grace ( 1978) stated that "while in nursing there are differentiations in the names of the degree offered at the varying schools throughout the country, the objectives are not clearly differentiated nor the end products clearly distinguished."

Research conducted to determine distinctions between research-oriented and professional-oriented doctoral programs has been conducted primarily in the fields of social work and education. The overall emphasis of these studies has been on distinctions between environmental variables (e.g., administrative unit responsible for the program) and curricular variables (e.g., program content and purpose). Generally, findings have indicated minimal differences between research-oriented PhD programs as compared to professional-oriented Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and Doctor of Education (EdD) programs (Crow & Kindelsperger, 1975; Moore, Rüssel & Ferguson, 1960; Trautmen, 1977). Robertson and Sistler (1971) reported that all PhD degree programs and none of the EdD programs had a foreign language requirement. Richardson and Walsh (1978) found that the one major difference between PhD and EdD degree programs dealt with the administrative unit for the programs; 1) PhD degree programs were primarily administered by the graduate college, and 2) EdD degree programs were administered by the graduate college or the college of education. Jain and Carl (1978) reported differences in two areas when comparing PhD and EdD degree programs: 1) PhD degree programs required students to complete more research courses, and 2) minor/ cognate requirements and to some degree the leveling of course requirements differed between the two degree programs.

Table

TABLE 1SELECTED CURRICULAR PLANNING VARIABLES

TABLE 1

SELECTED CURRICULAR PLANNING VARIABLES

Research comparing different types of doctoral programs in nursing has not been done. However, based on research findings comparing doctoral programs in other fields, conjecture exists that curricular distinctions are not readily apparent among different types of doctoral programs in nursing. This suspected lack of distinction makes curricular evaluation difficult. Pluralism in doctoral programs in nursing cannot be accomplished through the name of the degree alone. Lack of clarification between degree types creates confusion in professional circles as well as among the public. In addition, it makes it difficult to establish standards for doctoral education in nursing and, subsequently, makes the assessment of quality more difficult (Future, 1971).

In order to clarify distinctions between types of doctoral programs in nursing, a study was conducted which addressed curricular planning similarities and differences between research-oriented and professional -oriented doctoral programs in nursing.

Research Questions

Three research questions were generated for the study. These questions addressed the presence and nature of curricular similarities and differences between researchoriented and professional -oriented doctoral programs in nursing in terms of selected 1) environmental input variables, 2) curricular design variables, and 3) outcome variables. These three types of curricular planning variables and their respective categories and subcategories are presented in Table 1.

Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework for the study was based upon Conrad and Pratt's (1983) Model of Curricular DecisionMaking. The purpose of this model is the identification of curricular planning variables and clarification of the relationship among them (Conrad & Pratt, 1983). This purpose reflects both a linear and a non-linear dimension which makes the model especially useful in guiding examination of the content and process of curricular planning and decision making. The linear dimension of the model contains three major areas which have an impact on curricular decision making. These areas guided the study and include:

1 ) environmental inputs over which planners have minimal control; curricular design variables which constitute decision opportunities over which planners have considerable control; and 3) outcome variables which reflect the results of curriculum planning (specific types of curricular design) and operation of the curricular system (educational outcomes) (Conrad & Pratt, 1983).

Data Collection

A case study approach was utilized to implement the exploratory design of the study. The sample, which was comprised of eight cases, was randomly selected from the population of 24 doctoral programs in nursing in existence as of March 1982 (Doctoral, 1981). Four cases were randomly selected from the population of PhD programs with a major in nursing. These cases were designated Type 1 cases. Likewise, four cases were randomly selected from a combined population of all doctor of nursing science programs which represented Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS and DNSc) and Doctor of Science in Nursing (DSN) degree programs. These cases were designated Type II cases. For purposes of this study, it was assumed that the various doctor of nursing science degree programs, despite differences in titles, could be utilized as one population representative of all professional-oriented doctoral degree programs in nursing.

Data were collected through the use of a questionnaire which was mailed to the deans of Type I and Type II cases. Deans were requested to have the individual most knowledgeable about the doctoral program complete the questionnaire and return it to the investigator. The questionnaire, developed by the investigator, included 3 ) a face sheet which contained return mailing information, respondent information, and instructions for questionnaire completion, and 2) a 14-page answer sheet that included questions which addressed curricular planning variables identified in liable 1. Two question formats were used in the design of the questionnaire. These included forced-choice items which were presented as a five-point Likert-type scale and completion items. A comments section completed the answer sheet. Questions were derived from Conrad and Pratt's (1983) Model for Curricular Decision-Making and literature related to graduate education in general and, more specifically, graduate education in nursing. The questionnaire was pretested for content validity by a panel of seven individuals. Reliability testing was not done. Panel members were selected based upon their knowledge and expertise in the area of instrument design and the content area of the study. Six of the seven members were actively involved in a College of Nursing graduate education program. These members included the Dean; the Associate Director for Graduate Programs; a former college of nursing dean and current Associate Professor of Nursing; the Division Coordinator for Medical -Surgi cal Nursing and current Assistant Professor of Nursing; and two advanced doctoral students, one majoring in nursing and minoring in higher education administration, and one majoring in higher education administration and minoring in nursing. The final member of the panel was a Senior Systems Analyst for Institutional Studies in Higher Education. Panel members critiqued questionnaire content and design. Following critique, the questionnaire was revised.

Table

TABLE 2ENVIRONMENTAL INPUT VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

TABLE 2

ENVIRONMENTAL INPUT VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

Data Analysis

Content analysis was utilized to examine the manifest content of written responses to questionnaire items (Krippendorff, 1980). Questionnaire items, which reflected selected curricular planning variables presented in the variable subcategories section of Table 1 were used as units of analysis. A total of 101 units of analysis was established. Case responses to each unit of analysis were tabulated in terms of frequency and content of response. A 75% content analysis criterion level was then applied to tabulated responses to determine curricular similarities and differences between Type I and Type II cases. A curricular similarity was defined at the 75% criterion level as a frequency response of three or more of both Type I and Type II cases for a single unit of analysis. A curricular difference was defined at the 75% criterion level as a frequency response difference of three or more of either Type I or Type II cases for a single unit of analysis. Questionnaire data which did not meet the 75% content analysis criterion level were considered inconclusive.

Findings

Completed questionnaires were returned by eight randomly selected cases. Findings indicated that definite curricular similarities and differences did exist between the two types of cases.

Environmental Input: Out of a total of 71 units of analysis, established to examine environmental input variables, responses for seventeen reflected curricular similarities while responses for one indicated a curricular difference. A summary of curricular similarities and differences for environmental input variables is present in Table 2.

Curricular similarities and differences were found in the environmental input categories of societal, institutional, and student variables. For societal variables, three out of four Type I and Type II cases indicated that state credentialing policies for nursing had no influence on program planning.

Curricular similarities for institutional variables were reflected in responses to seven units of analysis, while a curricular difference was identified by responses to one unit of analysis. Three out of four Type I and Type II cases reported that there was an excellent fit between institutional mission goals and program goals. Likewise, three out of four Type I and Type II cases indicated that program financial support was very adequate to meet program needs. All Type I and Type II cases stated that a separate budget was not available for their respective programs. In terms of physical resource characteristics, three out of four Type I and Type II cases reported that computer facilities at their affiliated Health Sciences Center and at the College/ School of Nursing were very adequate. However, only one Type I case as contrasted with four Type II cases reported that science library facilities could be rated as very adequate. Similarities were found between Type I and Type II cases regarding faculty characteristics. All Type I and Type II cases reported that faculty always had input into the development of program policies. In addition, four Type I cases and three Type II cases indicated that they had no faculty at the instructor rank teaching in their program. All Type I and Type II cases reported that program administrative personnel always had input into the development of program policies.

Curricular similarities for student variables were reflected in response to nine units of analysis. Responses to four units of analysis for admission criteria yielded similarities. All Type I and Type II cases reported that the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) was a required entrance exam. Likewise, all cases accepted the undergraduate degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for admission. Three Type I cases and four Type II cases accepted the graduate degree of Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) for admission. Four Type I cases and three Type II cases sought a basic statistics course as part of their admissions criteria, while all cases used current RN licensure as an admissions criterion. Curricular similarities were also found in terms of admission process components. Three out of four Type I and Type II cases reported that the faculty/applicant interview was a component of their admisssion process. In addition, three Type I and four Type II cases reported that faculty committee approval and letters of recommendation were also part of their admission process. In terms of financial assistance, three out of four Type I and Type II cases indicated that students utilized guaranteed student loans as a financial aid source. Similarities in student employment characteristics were also noted between the two types of programs. Three out of four Type I and Type II cases indicated that the total number of students employed on a full-time basis was unknown. In addition, three out of four Type I and Type II cases identified part-time student employment positions of graduate assistant, research assistant, staff nurse, and teacher. All Type I and Type II cases reported that students always had input into the development of program policies.

Curricular Design: Out of a total of nineteen units of analysis, established to examine curricular design variables, responses for eight reflected curricular similarities while responses for five reflected curricular differences. A summary of similarities and differences for curricular design variables is presented in Table 3.

Table

TABLE 3CURRICULAR DESIGN VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

TABLE 3

CURRICULAR DESIGN VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

Similarities and differences were found in the curricular design categories of curricular content variables and curricular design variables. Similarities for curricular content variables were reflected in responses to seven units of analysis, while differences were apparent in responses to three units of analysis. Four Type I cases and three Type II cases indicated that the predominant curricular theme of their program was the academic discipline as opposed to an emphasis on student development. Three out of four Type I and Type II cases reported that no conceptual framework was utilized with their respective doctoral program. Both similarities and differences were seen between program types in terms of program purposes and objectives. Three out of four Type I and Type II cases reported that preparation of college teachers and applied reseachers were primary program purposes.

In contrast, one out of four Type I cases as opposed to all Type II cases indicated that preparation of clinicians was a primary program purpose. In addition, all Type I and no Type II cases stated that preparation of pure researchers was a key program purpose. Three out of four Type I cases and all Type II cases identified three primary program objectives utilized in preparation of program graduates. These objectives stated that the student would be able to 1) evaluate the application of research designs and statistics to the study of nursing phenomena, 2) design research studies relevant to nursing practice, and 3) conduct research studies relevant to nursing practice. In contrast, one out of four Type I cases as compared to all Type II cases reported that communication of relevant nursing research findings was considered a primary program objective.

Table

TABLE 4OUTCOME VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

TABLE 4

OUTCOME VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

Similarities for curricular design variables were reflected in responses to one unit of analysis, while differences were reflected in responses to two units of analysis. Regarding organizational orientation, no Type I cases as compared to three Type II cases identified themselves as somewhat flexible in terms of program structure. In addition, no Type I cases as contrasted with three Type II cases described their instructional strategies as somewhat nontraditional (e.g., use of role-playing). In terms of acceptable credit options, three Type I cases and four Type II cases reported that transfer credit was considered an acceptable option.

Outcomes: Out of a total of 11 units of analysis, established to examine outcome variables, responses for three reflected curricular similarities. No curricular differences were evident. A summary of similarities and differences for outcome variables is presented in Table 4.

Similarities were found in the outcome categories of educational outcome variables and curricular outcome variables. Similarities for educational outcome variables were reflected in responses to one unit of analysis. All Type I and three Type II cases required the dissertation as their program completion project.

Similarities for curricular outcome variables were reflected in responses to two units of analysis. All Type I and Type II cases indicated that they had a formal program evaluation plan. Three out of four Type I and Type II cases stated that their program evaluation plan could be described as very adequate.

Discussion

Findings suggested that more curricular similarities than differences existed between Type I and Type II cases. In particular, responses to units of analysis for environmental input and outcome variables, with one exception, reflected similarities. However, responses to units of analysis for curricular design variables reflected several curricular similarities as well as several differences. In essence, similarities in curricular content areas suggested that both types of cases supported program purposes geared toward preparation of educators and applied researchers. However, Type II cases were much more supportive of the preparation of clinicians, while Type I cases were more oriented toward the preparation of pure researchers. In addition, differences in program objectives indicated that Type II cases felt that the communication of research findings relevant to nursing practice was a primary consideration; whereas, Type I cases did not indicate this degree of concern. Differences in curricular design areas suggested that Type II cases considered themselves more flexible in program organizational structure and less traditional in terms of types of instructional strategies. The nature of these similarities and differences, particularly in terms of program purposes and objectives, supported previous descriptions of Doctor of Philosophy degree programs with a major in nursing and Doctor of Nursing Science degree programs (Downs, 1978).

Inconclusive responses to units of analysis provided areas for additional research. Additional areas for research in the environmental input area included 1) sources, amounts and types of funding available to doctoral programs; 2) direct and indirect educational costs associated with educating a full-time doctoral student; 3) faculty characteristics in terms of academic and professional preparation and work characteristics; 4) characteristics of administrative personnel involved in doctoral education in nursing; and 5) student characteristics specifically in the areas of demographics, enrollment data, attrition factors, financial assistance, employment patterns, and educational interests over time. Additional areas for research in the curricular design area focused on aspects of curricular form particularly in the areas of 1 ) available coursework options, and 2) required number of course credit hours. Specific areas for additional research in the outcome area focused on educational outcomes particularly in the areas of 1 ) student satisfaction, 2 ) nature and type of employment positions occupied by graduates, and 3) employer satisfaction with program graduates.

Conclusions

In contrast to research findings resulting from comparison of academic and professional doctoral degree programs in other fields, comparison of Type I and Type 1 1 cases suggested curricular similarities as well as differences. In addition, findings also addressed concerns expressed by Leininger (1976), Scearse (1976), Downs (19781 and Grace (1978) regarding the lack of distinction between types of doctoral programs in nursing. In particular, differences provided support for definitions of types of doctoral degree programs in nursing advanced by Schlotfeldt (Future, 1971 ) and Downs (1978). Curricular differences were apparent between Type Ï and Type II cases which suggested the presence of diversity within the profession of nursing's emerging doctoral degree structure.

The primary limitation of the study concerned the use of a case study approach to examine curricular similarities and differences. While this approach provided useful exploratory data for additional research, discretion must be used in generalizing findings to all doctoral programs in nursing.

Thirty-one universities in the United States have reported that they are considering or definitely planning operation of a doctoral program in nursing in the foreseeable future (Vaughn, 1982). As the demand for doctoral education in nursing increases, the need for clarification between the various doctoral degrees will become more acute. Distinctions were apparent between cases for Type I and Type II doctoral programs in nursing; however, additional research is required to further determine the extent and significance of these differences. This research will, in turn, provide support for the ongoing development of a high quality doctoral degree structure in nursing.

References

  • Conrad C. & Pratt, A. (1983). Making decisions about the curriculum: from metaphor to model. Journal of Higher Education, 54 (H 16-30.
  • Crow, R.T. & Kindeisperger, K. W. (1975). The Ph.D. ortheD.S.W.? The Journal of Education for Social Work, 1H3), 38-43.
  • Doctoral programs in nursing /98 1 -82(1981 1. New York; National League for Nursing.
  • Downs, F.S. (19781. Doctoral education in nursing: future directions. Nursing Outlook, 26, (11), 56-61.
  • Downs, F.S. (1977). What kind of doctoral preparation for nursing? Health Affairs. 74(1), 27-28.
  • Future directions of doctoral education for nurses: report of a conference (1971). Bethesda, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, DHEW No. 72-82.
  • Grace, H. (1978). The development of doctoral education in nursing: in historical perspective. Journal of Nursing Education, 77(4), 17-27.
  • Jain, B.J. & Carl, L. (19781. Comparisons of selected requirements for the PhD and EdD in adult education in North America. Champaign, 111.: University of Illinois at Urbana -Champaign.
  • Kelley, J- (1977). Professional communication and its role in graduate education curriculums. Curriculum in graduate education in nursing part III: development and improvement of graduate education in nursing, (pp.1 1-29). New York: National League for Nursing.
  • KrippendorfF, K. (1980). Content analysis: an introduction to its methodology. Beverly Hills, Calif: Sage Publications.
  • Leininger, M. Ì1976). Doctoral programs for nurses: trends, questions and projected plans. Nursing Research, 25 (3), 201-210.
  • Moore, H. E., Rüssel, J.H., and Ferguson, D. G. (I960). The docto rate in education. Washington, D.C.: The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
  • Richardson, R.C. & Welsh, R.T. ( 1978). Differences and similarities in the practices of institutions offering the PhD and EdD programs in higher education. Tempe, Arizona: Arizona State University, Department of Higher and Adult Education.
  • Robertson, N. &Sistler, J.K. (1971). The doctorate in education: an inquiry into conditions affecting pursuit of the doctoral degree in the field of education. Bloomington, Indiana: Phi Delta Kappa.
  • Scearse, P. (1976) Doctoral preparation for nurses: Program selection factors. Current issues affecting nursing as a part of higher education (pp. 15-19). New York: National League for Nursing.
  • Trautmen, R.D. (1977). Residence and admission requirements for the doctorate in administration at 81 institutions. PAi Delta Kappan, 59(11), 208-209.
  • Vaughn, J.C. (1982). Educational preparation for nursing, 1981. Nursing and Health Care, (10), 447-455.

TABLE 1

SELECTED CURRICULAR PLANNING VARIABLES

TABLE 2

ENVIRONMENTAL INPUT VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

TABLE 3

CURRICULAR DESIGN VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

TABLE 4

OUTCOME VARIABLES: CURRICULAR SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE Il CASES AT THE 75% CRITERION LEVEL

10.3928/0148-4834-19861101-04

Sign up to receive

Journal E-contents