Journal of Nursing Education

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Educational Preparation for Clinical Teaching: Perceptions of the Nurse Educator

Harriett F Karuhije, RN, EdD

Abstract

ABSTRACT

Clinical teaching in nursing has been found to be as problematic as it is in other practice-oriented professions. Numerous studies have identified and classified both effective and ineffective clinical teaching behaviors. Absent from the literature are investigations seeking the perceptions of the teachers regarding the adequacy of their preparation for the task and the possible reason(s) for ineffective performance. During the 1983 NLN convention and an ADN workshop, 211 nurse educators responded to a questionnaire soliciting their perception about the adequacy of their graduate program in preparing them for clinical teaching responsibilities. In addition, recommedations were sought on content necessary to effective performance. The study data reveal some startling findings and raise serious questions about the priority graduate programs assign to the content desired by survey participants as necessary for effective clinical teaching. Specific recommendations to address the problem are presented.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

Clinical teaching in nursing has been found to be as problematic as it is in other practice-oriented professions. Numerous studies have identified and classified both effective and ineffective clinical teaching behaviors. Absent from the literature are investigations seeking the perceptions of the teachers regarding the adequacy of their preparation for the task and the possible reason(s) for ineffective performance. During the 1983 NLN convention and an ADN workshop, 211 nurse educators responded to a questionnaire soliciting their perception about the adequacy of their graduate program in preparing them for clinical teaching responsibilities. In addition, recommedations were sought on content necessary to effective performance. The study data reveal some startling findings and raise serious questions about the priority graduate programs assign to the content desired by survey participants as necessary for effective clinical teaching. Specific recommendations to address the problem are presented.

Background for Survey

An intriguing challenge posed by one of the assumptions in the preface to the book A Guide for Effective Clinical Instruction (Carpenito & Duespohl, 1980), in which the authors assert that ". . . most graduate programs do not provide individuals with basic information on clinical instruction . . ." This prompted the design and implementation during the summer of 1983 of an informal exploratory survey to test empirically the validity of the statement. An exploratory survey was considered appropriate as a beginning inquiry into a particular topic; no attempt was made to select a representative sample, data were not collected on a standardized form, and the results could raise new possibilities which may be later followed up in a more controlled survey (Babbie, 1973).

The three purposes for this preliminary survey were to determine whether f 1 ) nurse educators agreed or disagreed with Carpenito and Duespohl's stated assumption; (2) the type of basic contení desired if they agreed; and (3) if they disagreed, to indicate the basic content acquired in their graduate program believed to be useful to their effectiveness as a clinical instructor. Although the practicing professions - teaching, social work, nursing, law, medicine, the ministry, and clinical and counseling psychology require that the neophyte be trained in the skills of the practice as well as the theory, clinical instruction has been found to be quite problematical across all the disciplines (Daggett, Cassie & Collins, 1979).

A relatively large body of reported research substantiates the nature and scope of the general problem. The accumulated data from several comprehensive reviews of the research literature on clinical teaching by Daggett et al. (1979), Meleca et al. (1982), and Pugh (1983), provide extensive documentation on the questionable effectiveness of both clinical instruction and clinical teachers. Moreover, since 1967, a number of doctoral dissertations have been completed in the Department of Nursing Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, on a variety of important aspects of clinical teaching.

Agroup of the studies, which are unpublished, addressed three of the topics most often investigated in the published research: Í1) faculty and student perceptions about the relevance and use of the clinical laboratory (Allerman & Britten, 1974; Henning, 1974; Van Sanders, 1978; Zasowski, 1967); (2) student perceptions of effective and ineffective clinical teaching behaviors (Dowling, 1970; Glass, 1972; Oison, 1978); and (3) a comparative analyses of the effectiveness of selected clinical instructional strategies (Karuhije, 1978; Koniak, 1981; O'Neill, 1981). The findings from this unpublished research contribute additional evidence on problem-laden facets of clinical teaching.

Similarly, evaluation of the clinical teacher in nursing is well documented. The primary focus, however, tends to center on effective and ineffective clinical teaching behaviors as perceived by students and peers (Curry, 1981; Fowler & Heater, 1983; Nash, 1977; O'Shea & Parsons, 1979; Wong, 1978).

There is, however, a surprising absence in the literature of either concern for or interest in the clinical instructor's perception about the probable origin of the difficulty encountered during clinical teaching. Prior to this survey, instructors* perception about the adequacy of their educational preparation for the task has neither been sought nor considered. For the most part, the clinical teacher has been more often maligned about ineffective/hindering teaching behaviors than consulted about what they believe is needed to acquire more effective/helpful teaching behaviors.

Since clinical teaching can easily consume nearly 50% of the teachers' instructional activities, it seems reasonable to assume that faculty who teach in the practice professions must surely be concerned not only with role modeling but also whether they have acquired the requisite basic information and skills for discharging their instructional responsibilities. Similarly, the members of a discipline who are charged with the awesome task of translating and transmitting the discipline's clinical knowledge and skill in ways that create safe, competent, knowledgeable practitioners, ought to feel confident in their ability to do so. Daggett et al. (1979), observed

For all the different disciplines represented in the research reviews on clinical teaching - there is great congruence among them on what constitutes effective and ineffective clinical teaching - one would expect to find evidence of well thought out approaches to clinical teaching as well as appropriate training programs for clinical instructors and/ or suggestions for change or improvement of clinical teaching made . . . Sadly, this is not the case (p. 161).

Unfortunately, many young faculty members, fresh from graduate programs, take the responsibility for clinical teaching lightly and very much for granted. Unwittingly, they reflect the questionable and severely criticized clinical teaching described in both published and unpublished research reports. Curiously enough, although the National League for Nursing (NLN) (1979) statement on the characteristics of graduate education in nursing leading to the Master's degree quite specifically delineates the critical importance of both functional and clinical preparation, de Tornyay and Thompson (1982) noted,

as the knowledge base for nursing has expanded tremendously in the past few years, graduate programs in nursing have tended to decrease preparation in the "functional area" of teaching. Therefore, the teacher of nursing may well enter a teaching career with neither the prerequisite trial of competence nor the experience with the tools for teaching (Preface, ix).

Given existing conditions, the survey results that follow seem timely and perhaps productive of some new insight into the old and continuing problem of providing competent clinical instruction for students of the professions generally and nursing particularly.

The Sample

The Survey: The volunteers participating in the survey were nurses attending the NLN Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a workshop for ADN educators sponsored by the Department of Nursing Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City. Both events occurred during June 1983.

The Data Collection Instrument: The questionnaire used, a simple one-page tool developed by the author, consisted of two parts; Part I, a brief section for demographic data; and, Part II which included three questions - one forced-choice and two open-ended. A final notation asked for additional comments. Excluding name, the demographic data sought were: sex, age, highest degree held, resident state, and current position. The first, or forced-choice question, asked the participant to check either agreement or disagreement with the following statement. ". . . most graduate programs do not provide individuals with basic information on clinical instruction."The second and third were open-ended questions and read:

2. If you agree with the statement, what course content do you believe should be included in a graduate education program on clinical instruction?

3. If you disagree with the statement, please indicate the course content acquired in your graduate education program that was most useful to you in clinical instruction.

The questionnaire, which requires approximately 10 minutes response time, was completed on-site and collected by the researcher. Descriptive statistics as well as frequency distributions and percentages have been used to report the findings.

Survey Results

Description of the Sample: From the survey sample of 211 volunteers, consisting of 210 females and one male, 193 usable and 18 unusable questionnaires were obtained for analysis. Participants were 131 nurses from the NLN Convention and 80 from the ADN Workshop. Ages ranged from 28-64 years, with the mean age at 42 years. The largest number and percentage, 78 (41%) of the respondents were in the 40-49 age range.

A Master's degree was the highest degree held by 118 (61%) of the sample. The MSN or clinical degree accounted for 60% (71) of the Masters. Doctorally prepared participants comprised 26%; 15% holding the EdD; 11% the PhD. The item on education was omitted by 17 respondents.

Although 20% (39) of the usable forms did not indicate state of residence, 35 of the 50 states in the continental U.S. were represented. Five northeastern states were the residence of 50% (77) of those responding. There were also three participants from outside the U.S.: one from the Virgin Islands and two from Puerto Rico.

Positions in educational institutions were cited by 119 respondents. Curiously, this item was omitted on 30% (57) of the usable questionnaires. Nine different types of academie rank were reported. Other kinds of positions, a total of 17 or 9% of the sample, ranged from staff nurse to Assistant Chief Nurse, Veterans Administration, to Chairman, Ambulatory Care Services. The most frequent rank given was instructor, 39 (20%); Assistant and Associate Professor followed with 31 (16%) and 14 (7%) respectively. Ranks ranging from Professor to Program Director accounted for 18% of positions reported.

Table

TABLE 1FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION BY AGE RANGE, HIGHEST DEGREE HELD, AND POSITION ACCORDING TO PREFERENCE ON QUESTION #1 FOR 193 RNs ATTENDING A JUNE 1983 NLN CONVENTION AND ADN WORKSHOP

TABLE 1

FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION BY AGE RANGE, HIGHEST DEGREE HELD, AND POSITION ACCORDING TO PREFERENCE ON QUESTION #1 FOR 193 RNs ATTENDING A JUNE 1983 NLN CONVENTION AND ADN WORKSHOP

Table 1 presents in detail the numerical data, frequency, percentages, and aggregate distributions for age range, bighest degree held, and position.

Analysis and Discussion of Responses to the Three Survey Questions: In response to the first question which asked for agreement or disagreement with the statement "most graduate programs do not provide individuals with basic information on clinical instruction." Table 2 illustrates that a startling 78% (151), more than three quarters of the survey sample agreed with the statement: only 42 participants disagreed.

Although the number who disagreed was small - 36 for the NLN and six for the ADN sample, representing 22<# of the usable responses, the difference in percentage of disagreement between the groups was dramatic; 30% of the NLN sample compared to only 8% for the ADN.

Pohl (1963) and Donley, Jebson and Perloff (1973) earlier documented the concern of MSN graduates about the adequacy of their graduate education for "practice realities." They had been prepared as clinical specialists but were frequently expected to assume the role of nurse educator for which they were not prepared.

Table

TABLE 2FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE OF RESPONSE BY PREFERENCE TO SURVEY QUESTION #1 OF 193 RNs ATTENDING THE NLN CONVENTION AND ADN WORKSHOP IN JUNE 1983

TABLE 2

FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE OF RESPONSE BY PREFERENCE TO SURVEY QUESTION #1 OF 193 RNs ATTENDING THE NLN CONVENTION AND ADN WORKSHOP IN JUNE 1983

Two categories, Desired Content and Acquired Content were created for reporting the findings from question 2 and 3 respectively. Five hundred twenty discrete responses were generated from both questions. The reply to question 2, which asked "What content do you believe should be included in a graduate education program on clinical instruction?," generated 436 (84%) of the 520 items.

A majority of the 151 respondents suggested at least two items of desired content with some item of desired content identified by all respondents. The five desired content items ranked in the order of most frequent citation were:

1. Clinical Teaching Strategies

2. Evaluation of Student Clinical Performance

3. Developing/Writing Clinical Objectives

4. Developing Clinical Evaluation Tools

5. Clinical Teaching Practicum with an Experienced Teacher

Frequency and percentages for the five items which represented 307 (70%) of all responses to question 2 are presented in Table 3.

Admittedly, programs that offer the basic information on clinical instruction will graduate teachers who engage in inappropriate instructional behavior at some point. What is important to note is whether graduate programs preparing nurse educators are sufficiently sensitive to the need and (demand) for a curriculum reflecting content relevant to the preparation of effective teachers in both areas, classroom and clinical. Generally ability to teach in the classroom is considered sufficient preparation for clinical teaching.

Table

TABLE 3ORDER OF FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE FOR FIVE ITEMS REPORTED AS DESIRED CONTENT BY NLN AND ADN SAMPLE

TABLE 3

ORDER OF FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE FOR FIVE ITEMS REPORTED AS DESIRED CONTENT BY NLN AND ADN SAMPLE

A closer look at the type of educational content identified as desired but missing from the respondents graduate program shows it to be the same content considered essential by CHssold (1962) and later writers. Indeed, the five items desired most frequently represent characteristics cited as necessary for effective clinical instruction by nurse educators such as Mannion (1969), Kiker (1973), Schweer and Gebbie (1976), Bonaparte (1977), Brown (1981), and Murphy (1983).

A summary of characteristics cited by these authors clearly indicates the requirement for knowledge of: ( 1 ) how to formulate clear, achievable, realistic, measurable clinical objectives; (2) communication and interpersonal skills equal to the conduct of pre- and post-clinical conferences, student counseling, and negotiating a supportive learning environment with agency staff, agency administrators, and clients; (3) the purposes, advantages and disadvantages of a variety of teaching strategies most appropriate for the clinical setting; (4) educational theory and the ability to transfer theory to practice; (5) how to develop and use a variety of clinical evaluation methods and instruments; and (6) incorporating the dual roles of teacher and nurse.

Eighty-four items from 42 participants were generated from question 3 which read "Please indicate the acquired content in your teacher education program that was most useful in clinical instruction."

The five acquired content items ranked in the order most frequently cited were:

1. Clinical !teaching Practicum with an Experienced Teacher

2. Courses in Curriculum Theory and Instruction

3. Testing/Measurement/Evaluation Techniques

4. Clinical Teaching Strategies

5. Content Related to Clinical Specialty

Frequency and percentages of the five items which represented 64 (75%) of all responses to question three are presented in Table 4. Included among other areas of important acquired content were the following frequently cited items: application of theory to practice; cognate courses in clinical teacher education principles; group process skills; audiovisual principles; and role development seminar.

Of interest, three of the five most frequently cited items in both categories, desired content and acquired content, were identical. Moreover, although order of importance differed, nine of the ten items cited most frequently in each category were very similar. Cognate courses in clinical teacher education principles and methods of dealing with problem students were the only items that did not appear on both lists. The first item appeared only in the acquired category; the latter in the desired category only.

Apparently, items nurse educators perceived as necessary for improving their effectiveness as clinical teachers are indeed the very items that contribute to nurse educators' perception of their effectiveness as clinical teachers.

Additional Comments: Approximately 10% of the participants responded to the invitation for additional comments. Although 22% of the sample believed they had acquired sufficient and adequate content in their graduate education which was useful to their effective performance as clinical instructors, the gist of their comments differed little from 78% of the respondents who believed their graduate education ill-prepared them for clinical teaching. Verbatim quotes from each group provides both a vivid illustration of an apparent paradox and a summary of the responses.

Table

TABLE 4ORDER OF FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE FOR FIVE ITEMS REPORTED AS USEFUL ACQUIRED CONTENT BY NLN AND ADN SAMPLES

TABLE 4

ORDER OF FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE FOR FIVE ITEMS REPORTED AS USEFUL ACQUIRED CONTENT BY NLN AND ADN SAMPLES

Representative comments from those satisfied with their graduate preparation were:

I would say that most programs do not incorporate enough clinical opportunities to inculcate the teacher role within the graduate student. Too much time needed for role "carving" and negotiating within the practicum setting. (West Virginia)

We don't have a teacher education program but believe a strong core of Teacher Education is essential to the preparation of advanced clinician - and to function most effectively as clinical instructors. Thank you for seeking our input. (Michigan)

Representative comments from those dissatisfied with their graduate preparation were:

I don't know about most but will answer from the standpoint of those I have employed for teaching. They seem to be less prepared and less confident in this area than formerly. (Virginia)

I believe that MSNa in clinical specialties are not at all useful for transfer to a teaching position but in most disciplines the expert becomes the teacher and knowledge about teaching is incidental. (Illinois)

Conclusions

A number of studies have been conducted on clinical teaching in the last two decades. These studies have shed some light on selected issues, yet they have failed to explore the adequacy of educational preparation for clinical teaching as perceived by program graduates.

Although the survey sample was voluntary and relatively small (211 RNs), the response represents the opinions of nurses from a wide geographic area of the United States. More than three fourths of the respondents agreed that their graduate education did not adequately prepare them to function as effective teachers in the clinical laboratory. Moreover, consistent with adult learning theory, they were able to identify precisely the learning needed to enhance functional role performance.

Though the aggregate data were startling, the survey results were not unexpected. The most startling aspect of the aggregate data was the magnitude of agreement; the results were expected as a consequence of two years personal experience teaching a graduate nursing course titled "Clinical Laboratory Teaching in Nursing" at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City. Students taking the course have consistently pointed out the value of such a course to them since the importance of formal preparation for the role of clinical teacher had never been addressed. Moreover, a similar course, required for all students preparing to be nurse educators, was strongly recommended by each class. To a great extent the survey data reconfirms existing conditions whereby many graduates of nursing programs who have been prepared as clinical specialists will eventually take faculty positions for which they will be unprepared to function effectively. It seems that nursing has adopted the controversial practice of other disciplines of hiring individuals with subject matter expertise but not teacher preparation.

Since undergraduate student nurses invest considerable time - about 12 to 20 hours per week - and considerable physical and mental energy in the clinical setting, one cannot escape being concerned about the representativeness of the response to this survey of the opinion of the other 27,405 nurse educators in the US (NLN, 1982, p. 455).

Clearly, the survey points to an overwhelming need for change and improvement in the preparation of nurse educators with special emphasis placed on clinical teaching competence. Clinical teaching makes two quite different demands on the nurse educator: (1) competence in nursing; and (2) competence in teaching.

A decade ago Infante (1975) urged

Just as changes in the service of a professional practitioner must start with the educational program of which he is a product, so changes in the type of teaching done by teachers at a senior college or university level must start with changes in the educational programs that prepare teachers.

By moving to a data-based vision of the kind of educational preparation needed for effective clinical teaching, graduate programs in nursing can answer tactical questions, reveal new potentialities, and change the way we look at this problem. While it is true, as Lowman (1984) points out, that many instructors have developed excellent skills on the job, without formal training or consultation during their initial teaching experience, many others have never developed the competence they might have achieved with appropriate instruction. Certification for clinical competence has gained wide acceptance in nursing. Perhaps it is time, however controversial the issue, to consider seriously teacher certification for nurse educators.

In the final analysis, Infante's (1981) current sentiments provide a most appropriate conclusion:

There are no perfect and complete solutions to the problems we face in teaching and in the clinical laboratory. And no formula will work well in every setting. Yet, the clinical laboratory is so vital a part of nursing education that we can no longer rely on traditional teaching methods that appear riddled with problems for students, faculty, and consumers ... (p. 19).

Recommendations

Graduate programs in nursing must re-assess planned curricula revision and seriously consider incorporating basic information on clinical instruction. The important content desired and apparently lacking in many programs was clearly identified by the survey respondents. Vigorous effort must be initiated to prepare our graduates for the realities of practice.

Of equal importance, when curricular decisions are made, it is essential to be aware that many teachers of today will be in the classroom for the next 10 to 15 years. They also need help to improve their effectiveness as clinical teachers, not just future teachers who are students today.

Creation of staff development programs such as inservice, continuing education, and workshops are encouraged to update and/or reinforce clinical teaching skills among faculty who need or desire such programs. Grasha (1978), Justice (1983), Lattai (1978) have shown that workshops and formal courses do increase teacher effectiveness. Capitalizing on existing workshops offered on Clinical Teaching and Clinical Evaluation in nursing1 is another means for achieving the desired goal.

The survey data point to the need for studies that will provide answers to some of the intriguing questions raised. The first, and by far, the most disturbing question was: Is it possible that the responses to the first two survey questions actually reflect the perceptions of the majority of the 27,616 nurse educators in the United States?

Other questions of concern are: What relationship exists between responses and the demographic variables? What responsibility should graduate nursing programs assume in preparing students for practice realities? What relationship exists between the instructional effectiveness of the clinical teacher and the clinical competence of her students? Who do nurse educators believe should be given the major responsibility for clinical teaching: Neophyte or Experienced Faculty?

A last recommendation arises from a strong bias of the author. Admittedly contrary to current trends and practice, this author believes that the clinical teacher and the classroom teacher, in undergraduate nursing education, should always be the same individual.

Clinical instruction is far too important to be delegated to the least experienced and least prepared. In too many instances the classroom teacher and the clinical teacher are worlds apart, neither having a clue nor caring what the other is doing. Somehow, classroom teaching has become a symbol of increased status while clinical teaching has come to be viewed as a sort of punishment.

It is possible that an ineffective classroom teacher may survive indefinitely without causing too much damage to the clinical performance of students. Yet ultimately everything depends on the existence of good teachers, and clinical teachers hold the future integrity, prestige, and credibility of our professional image and professional practice in their hands. If professional practice is to be guided by nursing theory; if knowledgeable use of a variety of teaching strategies is an imperative for stimulating and creative clinical instruction; if competence in planning clinical experiences and evaluating student performance is an essential instructional skill, if it is understood that theory taught in isolation from practice is virtually useless, then the goals of clinical instruction can only be achieved by the best prepared individual - the classroom teacher.

The data collected from this survey and the existing corpus of research literature on clinical teaching must be fed into decision-making processes related to graduate curriculum development in nursing. Failure to do so will ensure that the problems associated with clinical teaching, such as clinical teachers ill-prepared for the demands of the job and clinical teachers ignorant of both the requirements and demands of the job, will continue unchanged. Similarly, inaction on the issue makes collection of past, present, and future data a useless activity.

References

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TABLE 1

FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION BY AGE RANGE, HIGHEST DEGREE HELD, AND POSITION ACCORDING TO PREFERENCE ON QUESTION #1 FOR 193 RNs ATTENDING A JUNE 1983 NLN CONVENTION AND ADN WORKSHOP

TABLE 2

FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE OF RESPONSE BY PREFERENCE TO SURVEY QUESTION #1 OF 193 RNs ATTENDING THE NLN CONVENTION AND ADN WORKSHOP IN JUNE 1983

TABLE 3

ORDER OF FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE FOR FIVE ITEMS REPORTED AS DESIRED CONTENT BY NLN AND ADN SAMPLE

TABLE 4

ORDER OF FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE FOR FIVE ITEMS REPORTED AS USEFUL ACQUIRED CONTENT BY NLN AND ADN SAMPLES

10.3928/0148-4834-19860401-04

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