Journal of Nursing Education

EDITORIAL 

Developing the New Professorate

Christine A Tanner, PhD, RN, FAAN

Abstract

It's no news that the nursing professorate is graying. We need only to look around the halls of academe to see that the vast majority of us are donning progressive lenses, experiencing increasingly frequent "senior moments' (you know- memory lapses), and talking about our grandchildren. More than half of us are between the ages of 45 and 55, which means a good number of us will be retiring in the next decade or so (Ryan & Irving, 1994) Moreover, many of our newly minted PhDs are not much younger than we are. We can anticipate a shortage of nursing faculty unlike any time in our recent history. This shortage of faculty will particularly affect those nursing programs housed in institutions that emphasize teaching rather than research productivity. I want to argue two points: (1) that doctoral programs in nursing must provide opportunities for aspiring academics to develop the knowledge and skills needed for good teaching; and (2) 89 a discipline, nurse educators must recognize the need for some portion of our academic community to be scholars and researchers in education.

Doctoral programs in nursing continue to emphasize the development of researchers who can advance nursing science, with limited, if any, preparation for the teaching role. Yet, conventional wisdom holds that in the absence of explicit preparation for teaching, new teachers will teach as they were taught. That means lectures will continue to dominate the classroom, and supervision will be the dominant model of clinical instruction. But, quite simply, this will not do. There have been enormous advances in our understanding of human learning and in instructional design and educational technology. The public demand for accountability in learning outcomes is at an all-time high. And the revolution in health care requires the educational preparation of nurses with different kinds of skills than we learned in our basic educational programs. We have an obligation to help our aspiring academics develop some solid grounding in pedagogical theory and research, to learn basic precepts of teaching, and to explore alternative approaches to instruction that may result in improved learning outcomes.

There also continues to be a need in our academic communities for scholars and researchers in education. There was a time, of course, when there were few doctoral programs in nursing, and schools of education were among the few that openly welcomed nurses to their ranks. Most academics in nursing held doctoral degrees in education or related fields, rather than nursing. But this is rapidly changing. As a discipline, we have whole-heartedly embraced doctoral education in nursing as the standard preparation for academic roles, and doctoral preparation in education has become a stepchild. We must ask who will develop the science of nursing education over the next decades? Who will be sufficiently well grounded in traditional academic values to serve as responsible critics during times of momentous change?

As a discipline, nurse educators need research in nursing education. Typically, faculty reward structures do not support this, and funding opportunities are meager. Yet, we have pressing questions that beg for answers. Our clinical education, in particular, has changed little over the past several decades, despite promising advances in epistemology of professional practice and in cognitive science (e.g., Greeno, 1998). The National League for Nursing recognizes this need and has convened a blueribbon panel to establish priorities for research in nursing education. There is no doubt we will need a cadre of welleducated scholars who have immersed themselves in the study of how people learn to conduct this research.

We are all now experiencing the revolution in higher education. Access, cost, quality, and profit are rapidly…

It's no news that the nursing professorate is graying. We need only to look around the halls of academe to see that the vast majority of us are donning progressive lenses, experiencing increasingly frequent "senior moments' (you know- memory lapses), and talking about our grandchildren. More than half of us are between the ages of 45 and 55, which means a good number of us will be retiring in the next decade or so (Ryan & Irving, 1994) Moreover, many of our newly minted PhDs are not much younger than we are. We can anticipate a shortage of nursing faculty unlike any time in our recent history. This shortage of faculty will particularly affect those nursing programs housed in institutions that emphasize teaching rather than research productivity. I want to argue two points: (1) that doctoral programs in nursing must provide opportunities for aspiring academics to develop the knowledge and skills needed for good teaching; and (2) 89 a discipline, nurse educators must recognize the need for some portion of our academic community to be scholars and researchers in education.

Doctoral programs in nursing continue to emphasize the development of researchers who can advance nursing science, with limited, if any, preparation for the teaching role. Yet, conventional wisdom holds that in the absence of explicit preparation for teaching, new teachers will teach as they were taught. That means lectures will continue to dominate the classroom, and supervision will be the dominant model of clinical instruction. But, quite simply, this will not do. There have been enormous advances in our understanding of human learning and in instructional design and educational technology. The public demand for accountability in learning outcomes is at an all-time high. And the revolution in health care requires the educational preparation of nurses with different kinds of skills than we learned in our basic educational programs. We have an obligation to help our aspiring academics develop some solid grounding in pedagogical theory and research, to learn basic precepts of teaching, and to explore alternative approaches to instruction that may result in improved learning outcomes.

There also continues to be a need in our academic communities for scholars and researchers in education. There was a time, of course, when there were few doctoral programs in nursing, and schools of education were among the few that openly welcomed nurses to their ranks. Most academics in nursing held doctoral degrees in education or related fields, rather than nursing. But this is rapidly changing. As a discipline, we have whole-heartedly embraced doctoral education in nursing as the standard preparation for academic roles, and doctoral preparation in education has become a stepchild. We must ask who will develop the science of nursing education over the next decades? Who will be sufficiently well grounded in traditional academic values to serve as responsible critics during times of momentous change?

As a discipline, nurse educators need research in nursing education. Typically, faculty reward structures do not support this, and funding opportunities are meager. Yet, we have pressing questions that beg for answers. Our clinical education, in particular, has changed little over the past several decades, despite promising advances in epistemology of professional practice and in cognitive science (e.g., Greeno, 1998). The National League for Nursing recognizes this need and has convened a blueribbon panel to establish priorities for research in nursing education. There is no doubt we will need a cadre of welleducated scholars who have immersed themselves in the study of how people learn to conduct this research.

We are all now experiencing the revolution in higher education. Access, cost, quality, and profit are rapidly becoming part of our academic culture, just as they were integrated into health care during the past decade. Our discipline needs critics of these changes in our culture, critics who understand nursing and nursing scholarship; who have a deep appreciation of traditional academic values such as service, truth, freedom, equality, justice, and community (Young, 1997); and who can help us think through which changes to criticize or resist and which to embrace. Doctoral programs in nursing, with a rightful emphasis on clinical scholarship, can provide only some of these tools.

Let us continue the conversation about ways to develop our new professorate. I invite your thoughts and opinions in Letters to the Editor or in full-length manuscripts.

REFERENCES

  • Greeno, J.G. (1998). On claims that answer the wrong questione. Educational Researcher, 26(1), 5-17.
  • Ryan, M., & Irving, P. (1994). Nursing professorate in America: Projected retirements and replacements. Journal of Nursing Education, 33(2), 67-73.
  • Young, R.B. (1997). No neutral ground; Standing by the values we prize in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Basa.

10.3928/0148-4834-19990201-03

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