One of the goals of baccalaureate level nursing educational programs is to prepare students to function as leaders in nursing. As leaders in nursing, baccalaureate graduates frequently will be working with groups in a variety of health care settings. Both leadership skills and a knowledge of group process will be vital to professional nursing practice.
Faculty teaching in baccalaureate nursing programs need to use teaching methods that will effectively assist students to learn ?p??? process and group leadership. This article will discuss the experience of one second step baccalaureate nursing program for registered nurses (RNs) in using the seminar as a teaching method to teach pOUp process and group leadership.
Relevance of Group Process to Nursing
A review of the literature documents the importance of effective group processes in nursing and health care. Many examples are given of nurses working with groups and nurses functioning as members of groups. Marram (1978) states that it is no longer a question of whether nurses should lead groups, but a question of what unique contributions nurses can make to groups. La Monica (1979) states that in professional nursing two or more people are often involved in accomplishing tasks related to client care. In order for these people to work together for the benefit of the client, effective group processes must be facilitated and studied. Loomis (1979) also sees the nurse as part of a health care team group. She believes that professional interdependence and cooperation are required in the delivery of modern health care.
Sampson and Marthas (1977) state that health professionals are involved with many different types of groups, such as patient groups, family groups, parent groups, health care team groups, and community groups. Many health professionals are also involved as educators or supervisors, either formally or informally, individually and in small group settings. During teaching and supervision, an interchange between persons takes place. The amount of learning that takes place depends not only on the expertise of the teacher in the area of specialization, but also on a knowledge of effective group process.
Use of the Seminar as a Teaching Method
The value of the seminar as a method to teach group process has been previously recognized. Anderson (1980, p. 23), in her article on the use of the seminar as a teaching technique, stated: "In the course of the discussion, the student learns how to communicate his/her ideas effectively and becomes an active member of a group, thus experiencing group process." de Tornyay and Thompson (1982) see one of the advantages of the seminar method of teaching as being an understanding of group process. They believe that the seminar provides students with experience in group problem solving and group decision making.
Experience of One Baccalaureate Nursing Program
In our nursing program for RNs, the final senior level nursing course consists of three credits of theory and four credits of clinical practice. This course gives the RN student the opportunity to analyze and integrate new knowledge with knowledge accumulated throughout nursing courses, liberal arts courses, science courses, and life experiences.
The principal teaching method for the three-credit theory portion of the course is the seminar. The average class size for the seminars is ten to 12 students. The seminar sessions meet once each week for a period of 14 weeks. During the seminars several topics are discussed, including group process, group leadership, nursing theory, nursing research, role theory, and the future of nursing. The first two seminars are on the topics of group process and group leadership in order to give the student a foundation for the course expectations that each student will be an active member of a group in seminar discussions, will function as a group leader for a seminar, and will analyze group process within the seminar group throughout the semester.
The faculty member responsible for the course leads the first two to three seminars. By leading the initial seminars, the faculty member acts as a role model for the students, demonstrating effective leadership skills in promoting group discussion and clarifying what is expected during the seminars. Students then become responsible for leading the remainder of the seminars. During the student-led seminars, the faculty member becomes a member of the group and participates in discussion of the topic. He or she also acts as a consultant to the study group.
Each student has input into his or her preference for a seminar topic from among a list of required course topics and additional topics for discussion chosen by the students. In collaboration with the faculty member, the student develops objectives for her or his seminar, prepares a bibliography, and suggests other appropriate learning experiences which will guide peers in preparation for the seminar.
As the seminar leader, the student is responsible for briefly introducing the topic of discussion and for summarizing the group discussion at the end of the seminar. During the seminar the student is responsible for promoting productive group discussion of the topic. As leader, he or she is also responsible for using communication techniques that will encourage all members of the group to share their ideas, views, and opinions, and for keeping in mind at all times general principles of group process.
In conjunction with the first two seminars, on the topics of group process and group leadership, an initial analysis of group process within the seminar group is done in order to increase the students' awareness of group process. Then at intervals during the semester, group process is again analyzed, with a final summary of group process being done at the end of the semester.
In order to assist each seminar leader to analyze his or her leadership ability in groups, all seminars are videotaped. Each student leader reviews the tape of his or her seminar and completes a self-evaluation. The criteria to evaluate the seminar leadership are developed by the student group, as part of group process, at the beginning of the semester. Using these same criteria, two peers, selected at random, and the faculty member also evaluate the seminar leadership, both in writing and in oral discussion.
Using the seminar to teach group process and group leadership is rated by the RN students as an excellent learning experience. As a result of this course, students have found they are more comfortable with leading groups and participating in groups, because they now have a better understanding of group process and have begun to develop skills in leading group discussions. They begin to recognize their responsibilities as group members and group leaders in health care settings, and more readily accept the challenge of working with groups in professional nursing practice.
From a faculty point of view, the use of the seminar as a teaching method provides the RN student with several valuable learning experiences. In preparing to lead a seminar, each student puts into practice self-direction, problem-solving, and decision-making skills as he or she reviews the literature, prepares objectives, and determines the learning activities for his or her peers in preparation for his or her seminar. Through leading a seminar the student learns and demonstrates leadership skills. Through the seminar process itself the student becomes an active member of a group and learns group process and effective group functioning.
The RN as Adult Learner
Using the seminar method of teaching meets the learning needs of RNs as adult learners. Knowles (1978), recognized as a leading theorist of adult learning, states some assumptions of adult learners. One of these assumptions is that the adult learner has a reservoir of experience which is a rich resource for learning for the individual and for others, and provides the individual with a broad base to which to relate new learning. Through the seminar discussions, the adult learner can share this wealth of experience and knowledge with others and can learn from others' experiences.
According to Knowles (1978) the andragogical model of teaching adult learners is a "process" model, in contrast to the "content" models employed by most educators. He states that "the content model is concerned with transmitting information and skills whereas the process model is concerned with providing procedures and resources for helping learners acquire information and skills" (p. 109).
The use of the seminar to teach group process and group leadership, as used at our institution, is clearly a process model. Students are actively participating in the seminars as members of a group and analyzing group process within the seminar group. Functioning as a seminar leader gives students the opportunity to experience the process of leadership.
Group process and group leadership "are areas in which definite skills can and must be learned; we are not all intuitively capable of working effectively with groups" (Sampson & Marthas, 1977, p. 18). A knowledge of effective group process and leadership ability in working with groups are essential for RN baccalaureate graduates who will be working with groups in a variety of settings in professional nursing practice. Through the use of the seminar as a teaching method, students learn the principles of group process and group leadership, function as a member of a group, and have the opportunity to practice leadership skills through leading seminar dicussions. All of these experiences are vital components of baccalaureate nursing education for RN students.
- Anderson, N. E. (1980). The use of the seminar as a teaching technique with senior undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education, 19(2), 20-25.
- de Tornyay. R. & Thompson, M.A. (1982). Strategies for teaching nursing (2nd ed.) New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- Knowles, M. (1978). The adult learner: A neglected species (2nd ed.). Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.
- La Monica, E.L. (1979). The nursing process: A humanistic approach. Menlo Park, CA: Add i son- We s l ey.
- Loomis, M.E. (1979). Group process for nurses. St. Louis: C.V. Mosby Co.
- Marram, G. D. (1978). The group approach in nursing practice (2nd ed.). St. Louis: C.V. Mosby Co.
- Sampson, E.E. & Marthas, M. (1977). Group process for the health professions (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.