Is it possible to meet objectives of given classes, to provide expertise on various subjects, to stimulate and invigorate students on a continual basis, and still survive as a faculty member? Inviting guest lecturers to an occasional class to share knowledge and expertise is one common teaching methodology. But who has not sat in the back of the lecture hall listening to the guest stray from the assigned topic as precious minutes tick away. We used a creative approach to direct and moderate content presented while allowing guests to share their expertise. The Phil Donahue talk show model was introduced to the classroom.
An experiment was conducted with two different upper-level nursing student audiences using the Phil Donahue television talk show as a model. A total of 57 nursing students participated: one group of 39 baccalaureate generic students (BSN) and one group of 18 associate degree students (AD) who were adult learners. Each class included the student audience, a panel of experts, and a faculty host. After guests were introduced, the faculty host asked a few initial questions to begin the discussion and then encouraged students to raise their own questions. The faculty member served as moderator and directed information being presented in a way that was consistent with class objectives. At the conclusion of class students were asked to assess the experience using a Likert-type scale with ratings from poor (1) to excellent (5).
Because of different curricula in the BSN and AD programs, selected topics for discussion by the panels were different. The teaching methodology, however, was the same for both classes, and content covered during these classes was evaluated through examination. Oncology nurse experts discussed cancer therapies and nursing interventions for the BSN class; individuals with various chronic conditions discussed coping strategies in the AD class.
The overall reaction to the experience was very positive. No one in either group ranked the class below 3 with 93% (50/54) of students ranking the experience either 4 or 5. In their opinion of how well questions were answered, 96% (55/57) of students ranked the experience either 4 or 5 with no one in either group selecting below 3. The AD students had higher positive feelings than BSN students in preferring this class type over the lecture format. Eighty-two percent (14/17) of AD students chose 4 or 5 with only 6% ( 1/17) selecting the low positive range. To compare, 63% (24/38) of BSN students chose in the high positive range with 18% (7/38) selecting 1 or 2. When asked how positive they felt about notes taken to help them prepare for testing, 47% of the BSN students (18/38) chose the high positive range, whereas only 6% (1/16) of AD students chose this range. AD students tended to favor the low positive rating as evidenced by 50% (8/16) selecting 1 or 2 as compared with 32% (12/38) of BSN students. Ninety-one percent (50/55) of all students selected a 4 or 5 rating for the value of this class as an educational experience.
Any proposal for a different approach to content delivery in the classroom must consider both faculty and student satisfaction. The faculty conclude that the Phil Donahue format is a very effective way to conduct class where guest speakers are invited to participate. Not only is variety from the typical lecture approach offered to students, but more importantly, experts are able to share knowledge and firsthand experiences while the faculty member moderates the flow of presented content. By maintaining control in this manner, the risk of not meeting class objectives before time runs out is eliminated. Advanced planning and coordination are required to assure a positive outcome, but the time invested prior to class is well worth it.
It is interesting to note that more than one third of the participants (37%) reported difficulty taking notes during this type of class. In addition, verbal feedback from students revealed their concern about being tested on content covered in this manner. It seemed as though the lack of notes directly related to students' concerns about testing. This may be a reflection of our traditional educational system where the student is accustomed to listening passively to the professor while writing down everything that is being said and thinking about the material only later when studying from notes.
There was a discrepancy between the two groups of students regarding their preference for this type of class over the traditional lecture format. This might have been due to the fact that generic students seem to be more comfortable with the lecture/note-taking style whereas adult learners in the AD program have had experiences with nontraditional approaches to learning through life experience and therefore feel more comfortable with this setting. One unanticipated positive outcome for the BSN student experience was the role modeling that occurred. Students tend to view faculty as teachers instead of nurses. Therefore, when practicing nurses share direct, personal experiences, the events take on exciting realism. This type of class ensures that nursing students are exposed to these positive role models.
The novel approach of using the Phil Donahue television talk show model in the classroom was successful for us. The model worked well with a panel of guests providing content and the faculty member moderating and directing the discussion by targeting questions and limiting and/or expanding responses as dictated by the objectives for the class.
We hypothesize that the Johnny Carson format, where a single guest speaker is interviewed by a faculty member, also would produce excellent results. We encourage colleagues to be creative and experiment in the classroom.