This article examines the implications of the current trend of curriculum revolution in nursing education. This trend has been described by Bevis and Watson (1989) as a move toward a thinking and caring curriculum. Bevis and Watson postulate that the teacher's role in nursing education must be restructured and reconceptualized. The relationship of this trend to learning styles and the implications for the success of nursing graduates will be explored.
Bevis and Clayton (1988) proposed that the current curriculum structure of nursing education is too limiting for professional nursing. The current structure is described as focused on training and not on education. Bevis and Clayton contend that nurse educators must be retooled to provide educative and innovative learning in addition to or in lieu of training.
Bevis and Watson (1989) claim that nursing curricula must be restructured to permit the learner to be actively engaged in scholarly pursuits. They support abandoning the dominance of lecture in nursing education. Accordingly, the use of passive teaching methods must be dropped in order to implement the curriculum changes necessary to meet the challenges of nursing in the new millennium. For teachers of baccalaureate programs, the obligation is to be knowledgeable in content and to elevate teaching to the degree that teachers are no longer lecturers. Lecturers, as defined by Bevis and Watson, are merely brokers of knowledge and information.
The curriculum revolution has been described by Diekelmann (1990) as a call for innovation in nursing education. The practice of teaching in nursing is unique and research is desperately needed to understand and guide future practice. The curriculum revolution proposed by Bevis and Watson is multifaceted. It is a scholarly, political, and social movement designed to shape our future and to allow better comprehension of the practice of nursing and education.
The responsibilities of nurse educators are multiple. Nursing students acquire a great deal of knowledge, psychomotor abilities, and critical-thinking skills throughout their nursing education. Upon graduation, students must be able to meet the challenges of a complex and changing health care system. In today's marketplace, graduates must not only know the theory, but also the practical application of the science (O"Leary, 1986). Additionally, nursing curricula must meet the limitations of time and the standards set by licensing and accrediting groups (Dunbar, 1986). The relatively short time period of nursing courses mandates that vital information be provided in an efficient and effective manner.
Paced with these multiple challenges, nurse educators must devise teaching methods to ensure that graduates have an adequate knowledge base on which to build critical thinking. Klassens (1988) states that teaching students critical-thinking skills to solve problems is an essential component of nursing education. However, students must have a foundation of knowledge in science and nursing in order to effectively use the nursing process to make complex decisions. The basic curriculum must be built on a sound body of nursing knowledge. Additionally, students must be provided with the tools to become active learners and critical thinkers.
Nurse educators must use various teaching methods in the presentation of information. Principles of adult education direct educators to utilize various formats and styles in presenting information; however, employing various techniques does not mandate that all lectures and the semblance of classroom structure be dropped. Students need some degree of structure in the classroom to provide safety and security. According to Belenky, Clinchy, GoIdberger, and Tarule (1986), students want some structure in the educational environment. The absence of structure can be perceived by students as an excuse for self-indulgence and a lack of seriousness regarding the materials to be covered.
When selecting a method or style of presenting information, teachers should strive to match the learning styles of the students in order to provide them with the best opportunity for gaining new knowledge. In selecting a teaching method, every effort should be made to ensure that the proposed method will increase the amount, content, skills, and values learned (Fuszard, 1989).
A variety of teaching styles should be used to provide students with many opportunities to build their knowledge base. Students should be encouraged to be active in the teaching-learning process; however, this does not imply that lectures should be avoided due to their passive nature. Nurse educators must use a certain amount of lecture, demonstration, and discussion to present nursing content to students. Subsequently, methods such as case study, role-playing, and student presentations can be employed to build on previously learned information. Because nursing is a practice profession, students must be provided with basic information and demonstrations on which to begin to build their own practice. To assume that students will develop safe and effective practice without the benefit of their professor's information and example would be to question the merit of the entire system of nursing education.
In order to obtain a broader opinion on the efficacy of various teaching techniques, a small informal survey was conducted of both students and faculty at the Husson/ Eastern Maine Medical Center baccalaureate nursing program. Nine senior students in a medical-surgical nursing class were asked to describe the most effective teaching methods used by faculty in their core nursing courses. All nine students identified lecture, discussion, and demonstration as the most effective methods in their required nursing classes. When asked to describe the most enjoyable (interesting, fun, etc.) methods, students described the various techniques of role-playing, handson practice, and case study.
Nursing faculty at this institution were informally surveyed and asked to describe the most effective teaching method in core nursing courses. Of the nine nursing faculty surveyed, six identified lecture, discussion, and demonstration as the most effective teaching methods. When asked to describe the most enjoyable method, case study, role-playing student presentations, and group exercises were offered as the methods that faculty found most interesting and fun.
According to the 18 students and faculty surveyed, the lecture/discussion method is still effective. This group also agreed that the most enjoyable teaching methods were those of role-playing and case study. Admittedly, these data were informally collected from a small and cohesive group of students and educators. However, the data provide a broader basis of support for the opinion that lecture, discussion, and demonstration are effective teaching methods that should not be abandoned in the trend toward a curriculum revolution.
Nurse educators should always strive to provide a challenging and stimulating learning environment. The nursing curriculum will grow and change with the evolution of health care and nursing practice. This growth does not necessarily dictate a complete reversal of teaching methods that have clearly been successful in the past.
Students must be active partners in the learning process so that they have a foundation for a career of professional growth in nursing. There are many opportunities for active learning in nursing education. Active learning can and should be an integral part of classroom activities. Additionally, the clinical setting can provide excellent opportunities for students to achieve active and self-directed learning.
The future in nursing education is exciting. A necessary ongoing evaluation of the curriculum does not mandate that we restructure and reconceptualize everything about the teacher's role. Research must take place to ensure that we meet the needs of students and the demands of a changing health care environment. We must find a way to balance the effectiveness of lecture and demonstration with the enjoyable and active methods of case study, role play, and simulations. Achieving this balance will enable nurse educators to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
- Belenky, M.F., Clinchy, B.M., Goldberger, N.H., & Tarule, J.M. (1986). Women's ways of knowing. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
- Bevis, E-, & Clayton, G. (1988). Needed: A new curriculum development design. Nurse Educator, 13(4), 14-18.
- Bevis, E., & Watson, J. (1989). Toward a caring curriculum. New York: National League of Nursing.
- Diekelmann, N.L. (1990). Preserving the practice of teaching in nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 29, 195.
- Dunbar, S. (1986). Imperatives for nursing education. Heart and Lung, 15(6), 18-22.
- Fuszard, B. (1989). Innovative teaching strategies in nursing. Rockville, MD: Aspen Publication.
- Hassens, E. (1988). Improving teaching for thinking. Nurse Educator, 13(6), 15-19.
- O'Leary, J. (1986, April). What employers expect from tomorrow's nurses. Nursing and Health Care, 7, 206-209.