The nursing program at Okanagan University College is 1 of 10 in a collaborative partnership in British Columbia that teach the same curriculum (i.e., collaborative curriculum). At Okanagan University College, there are two groups of nursing students- continuing students in the 4-year BSN program and returning RN students who join the continuing students in the third year of the program to complete requirements for a BSN degree. The first 2 years of the program are taught on a campus 15 kilometere away from the campus where the third and fourth years are taught. The geographical distance between the two campuses and faculty and student workloads limit opportunities for students and faculty in different years of the program to stay connected.
Several issues concerned faculty. The first was limited opportunities for serendipitous interactions among students and between students and faculty that typically occur in hallways, libraries, and cafeterias for networking and mentoring. The interactions also would help students see the curriculum as an integrated whole. Secondly, students did not believe their work was professional in quality, and the faculty wanted to reverse this belief. Finally, the faculty wanted to mentor students into the nursing profession and encourage them to consider themselves novice professionals.
Launching a Conference
Guided by a constructivist epistemology, some faculty members thought of creating a conference where faculty and students could celebrate students' work. The conference would provide an opportunity to bring students from both campuses together to network and provide an overview of the whole curriculum. The faculty believed that if the students recognized the value of their work and took responsibility for sharing it with others, they would better appreciate its value and develop a sense of professionalism. This approach is consistent with the curriculum philosophy for health promotion, in which faculty create an environment for students to reach their potential. Buoyed with enthusiasm, a committee of three faculty members and three students organized the first Celebrating Students' Work conference.
Celebrating Students' Work conferences have continued for 6 years. Students and faculty plan and stage the day, although the roles and responsibilities change each year depending on students' interests and available time. Student participation in the conference planning includes (Moneyham, Ura, Ellwood, & Bruno, 1996):
* Surveying students to determine their interest in the conference.
* Soliciting the retail community for refreshments and prizes.
* Providing participating students with information about oral and poster presentations.
* Promoting the event among students (e.g., in the student nursing newsletter, in the Okanagan University College student newspaper).
* Setting up the location in which the conference will be held.
Initially, the author envisioned the conference to be fun and festive, include food, provide a forum to share knowledge, and develop skills. The objectives were to:
* Promote coliegiaiity among students in all years and between students and faculty.
* Encourage students to present their work.
* Celebrate the value of students' work.
* Promote professionalism for students learning about nursing.
The content of student«' presentations was to reflect the competencies outlined by the Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia (RNABC) (1998). Because the faculty wanted the conference to be professional, nursing colleagues who worked with students where they had their clinical experience were invited. Invitations with the conference agenda and posters were mailed to all agencies and institutions where students had clinical experiences. It was hoped that attendance by representatives from the agencies and institutions would provide them with a greater understanding of the collaborative curriculum and students' work.
Curriculum Philosophies and Ways of Knowing
The curriculum philosophies and ways of knowing were captured and operationalized when planning the conference. The philosophies that guide the collaborative curriculum are phenomenology, critical theory, caring, feminism, and health promotion (Ministry of Skills, Training, & Labor, 1995). Also central to the collaborative curriculum is critical thinking as one way of knowing, as well as the work of Perry (1970) and Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1986) about how students learn. Both offer progressive, intellectual, developmental frameworks. Explications of the curriculum metaconcepts and the developmental stages of how students come to know are beyond the scope of this article. However, reference is made to both concepts and ways of knowing where applicable.
Students may present work completed during any year of their studies. However, most students choose to present work from the current year. The majority of work students share relates to clinical courses. Students' creativity is outstanding and professional. Presentation strategies have included posters, panels, games, slides, scrapbooks, photographs, guest speakers, Web sites, Powerpoint presentations, three-dimensional models, mementos from foreign countries, and a studentproduced videotape.
Students in the first year of the curriculum practice their skills with elderly people who reside in assisted living facilities. Most of their presentations reflect issues of concern about the phenomenological experiences of elderly people (e.g., sexuality, transition from home to institutional care, sentimental journeys).
Students in the second year of the program move into the acute care setting, so their presentations focus on topics such as pain control, Huntington's disease, cancer, and organ donation.
In the third year, students' rlini^»! experiences focus on disease prevention, health promotion, and community development. Studente work with specific populations to help them define their issues and seek resolutions- a health promotion concept. Topics include teen smoking, land preservation, and health needs assessment in rural communities and small towns.
Students in their fourth year focus on a practice area of interest, and their presentations demonstrate the variety of specializations and places where nurses practice (e.g., acute, continuing, and palliative care; public health; "street nursing," that is, nursing that delivers service to disenfranchised, marginalized people; international settings). Without fail, these presentations garner the most enthusiasm because students report on their clinical experiences while working in different countries or with challenging populations within the province, such as prison inmates, "street" people, and hospice clients.
Although fewer in number, there also have been presentations related to:
* Professionalism, such as the RNABC standards of practice, examination of RNABC resolutions, and a report about the International Council of Nurses conference.
* Research studies, such as Understanding Praxis: Practice to Theory Curriculum Construction (Prowse, 1999), research on latex allergies, and misuse of meperidine hydrochloride.
* Helping relationships, such as forming trust and community development with licensed practical nurses.
Foundational principles of professionalism and the nursing code of ethics have been presented in dualistic and concrete terms by novice learners consistent with their stage of knowledge (Belenky et al., 1986). Topics about how to handle mistakes, standards of practice, and the role and function of the RNABC student representative program acknowledge both the code of ethics and standards of practice as higher authorities necessary to guide nursing practice, and the facts are presented as truths.
From the beginning of the program, students are introduced to the feminist concept of valuing diversity, so multiplicity is promoted and subjective knowledge abounds. This was particularly well demonstrated by a panel of seven firstyear students who shared their inward listening and watching (Belenky et al., 1986) related to their phenomenological experiences about what happens when curriculum evolves from practice (Prowse, 1999). A clinical group in their second year presented their discoveries about themselves and nursing in a poster with pictures and quotes that exemplified their different views of clinical practice. A group of thirdyear students used posters, photographs, and newspaper clippings to question authorities' intentions and argued from a health promotion perspective that the land surrounding the university campus should be kept in its natural state to support the fragile ecosystem, rather than be developed for housing.
Fourth-year students were confident, poised, and articulate as they integrated curriculum philosophies, Carper's ways of knowing (i.e., personal, scientific, aesthetic, and ethical ways of knowing) (Carper, 1978), and diverse perspectives into their presentations. Access to a Web site created to post the findings from a community development project with seven rural and urban communities was a highly technical presentation that demonstrated impersonal meaning symbolic of separate knowing. Separate knowing and connected knowing are both characteristics of procedural knowing- methods of "acquiring and applying procedures for obtaining and communicating knowledge" (Belenky et al., 1986, p. 95). The focus of separate **| knowing is gaining mastery over objective data using impersonal procedures, compared to connected knowing, which emerges from a caring epistemology. Connected knowing was consistently present in the stories students recounted about the truth they experienced as they attempted to understand the health practices of people from other cultures. Many students experienced perspective transformations and discussed their practicums as life-changing events.
Learning from Feedback
Evaluation questionnaires for the Celebrating Students' Work conference were distributed to everyone who attended. Open-ended questions were used to determine what participants liked best about the day and whether it was of value for them and in what way. Questionnaires from students, faculty, and community attendees (i.e., non-nursing students, ^ nurses from neighboring institutions and agencies) were collected. The responses to the evaluation questions were content analyzed by the faculty. The themes that emerged from the data were atmosphere of the day, networking, and learning from each other.
Atmosphere of the Day
The atmosphere of the conference day , was that of a celebration. The essence of the celebration was captured in comments such as, "inspirational," "...exciting to be part of this, makes me proud to be a nurse and a student," and "keeps me excited about future courses."
Celebration was due, in part, to a sense of valuing. There was valuing of the program, presenters and presentations, and students' and nurses' work. The value of the BSN program was acknowledged with comments such as, "student projects make a difference in the community- not just within the nursing/university community, but the larger community. They do not just satisfy semester/course requirements, they affect people," and "great pride shown in the program.'' Valuing of the excellent quality of students' work and their presentations was celebrated with comments such as, "wonderful to see the poised and articulate presentations," "we do great work, and it was nice to have that recognition even among peers," and "the pride that everyone took in their work," which indicate that students were affirmed by themselves and otherB in relation to their work. "Today gave me good insight into what many nurses as well as students face in this career" was a comment made by a non-nursing student, which indicated an appreciation for students' and nurses' work.
Pacing of présentations throughout the day contributed to an atmosphere of professionalism and organization. Respondents also referred to a "casual," "open," "caring," and relaxed" atmosphere where people "felt welcomed."
Learning from each other, socialization, and a "sense of connectedness" that participants experienced with instructors, students, and students' work across all 4 years of the program were important elements of networking. Comments such as "a day of fellowship for nursing students" and "I enjoyed the feeling of togetherness" described the networking experience as special. Connections with instructors from * different years occurred (e.g., "it was a good chance to meet instructors from previous years") and with students in other years of the program (e.g., "finding out what students in other years are doing, finding out a range of opportunities, and hearing about other students' success"). Students in their fourth year commented, "finally getting together with all studente [years 1 to 4]. It has never happened before! In retrospect, the course has been fairly isolated- no contact with students in other years of the nursing program."
Learning From Each Other
Comments about learning were related to the content of the presentations and the experience of learning. Participants found the content useful, and their appreciation was captured by the comment, "wonderful, helpful posters were very informative and useful to understand practice.. .and great to identify key resource people who have expertise in various areas."
The experience of presenting was equally if not more valuable than the actual content. Students not only had the opportunity to teach about their projects, but they learned from each other (Moneyham et al., 1996). Comments such as "I had a chance to share my work, and learning from fellow students" and "mingling around the posters" reveal studente' excitement about this type of learning. The intellectual development described by both Belenky et al. (1986) and Perry (1970) is exciting.
Everyone who attended learned from the first Celebrating Studente' Work conference, and modifications are made each year. On the first day, less than 15% of the first and second year students chose to présent their work. This small level of interest in participation was related to a heavy workload and lack of understanding about the day and what work could be presented. As time passed, some fourth-year students reported they did not want to participate in the conference in their first and second years but by their third year they were "sold" on the value of the experience. This feedback was passed to faculty teaching first-year and second-year courses because some of them were dubious about the benefits of the conference initially but then responded more positively. In addition, faculty who were enthusiastic about the conference brainstormed with colleagues about strategies to enhance students' commitment to the project. Brainstorming included where and when to hold the event, whether grades should be awarded to students for participating, whether attendance should be compulsory, and whether to cancel classes and clinical experiences on that day.
The North campus, where third-year and fourth-year students attend classes, was the preferred site for several reasons. The committee hoped exposure to this setting by first-year and second-year students would increase their comfort with the university by reducing the mystique. Faculty also believed the poster displays and presentations were an excellent form of advertising nursing to non-nursing university students, situated only at the North campus, and who were undecided about career choices and could be recruited into the nursing program. Finally, because the geographical location of the North campus was halfway between two cities, travel time would be reduced and the likelihood for nurses from the two cities to attend would be increased.
The timing of the Celebrating Students' Work conference also was important. The committee wanted to hold it at the end of term so students who had their clinica! expérience out-of-province could be included and to provide students the opportunity to integrate what they learned during the term into their presentations. Establishing the location and timing of the conference proves to be challenging every year because the committee competes for space with other regularly scheduled classes. The first choice is to hold the conference in a high-traffic area in the student services building during the last week of classes. The poster presentations are in the foyer and students' lounge and the oral presentations are held in the theater. Holding the conference at this location and time requires extraordinary cooperation from the entire campus community.
Attendance and Grades
Faculty were guided by feminism and critical theory in deciding whether to award grades and whether attendance should be compulsory. Students feeling the pressure of many assignments were reluctant to work on another project.
Many faculty members heard students' concerns and gave them the option of using their presentations as course assignments that are graded using coursespecific criteria (e.g., inclusion of all stages of the political process in presentations for the political action course, evidence of client ownership of problems and goals for the community development course). Faculty found that students were more enthusiastic about presenting if they received a portion of the term grade for their presentation.
The conference is held in lieu of clinical time, and all classes are cancelled so there is no time conflict. Rather than make attendance compulsory, most faculty draw on the curriculum philosophy of caring and emphasize the importance of student attendance to support their peers as evidence of professionalism. This is a challenge for some students. However, after they attend and see how faculty and community nurses value their work, they require less convincing in future years to not only attend but to present their work.
The attendance of the nursing community has varied each year. In the beginning, several nurses attended to acquaint themselves with the new curriculum concepts. One year Dr. Patricia Benner was the speaker, so more nurses came to hear her speak Sometimes Okanagan University College graduates attend as if the conference were an excuse for a small reunion. Other years, job action and workloads have resulted in low attendance. However, when they attend, members of the nursing community are enthusiastic about what they see.
Over time, faculty have experienced the benefits of taking a risk and experimenting with a nontraditional method of teaching. This has made a difference in first-year and second-year students' participation. The most meaningful learning is students' excitement and insight about what professional conferences may be like. One year, this learning contributed to 20% of the total student body driving 450 kilometers to attend the International Council of Nurses in Vancouver. All faculty and students valued this method of learning what professionalism is all about,
- Belenky, M.F., Clinchy, B.M., Goldberger, N.R., & Tarule, J.M. (1986). Women's ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.
- Carper, B.A (1978). Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. In L.H. Nicoli (Ed.), Perspectives on nursing theory (2°* ed., pp. 252-2591 Philadelphia: Lippincott.
- Ministry of Skills, Training, and Labor. (1995). Collaborative nursing program in British Columbia. Victoria, British Columbia: Okanagan University College.
- Moneyham, L., Ura, D., Ellwood, S., & Bruno, B. (1996). The poster presentation as an educational tool. .Nurse Educator, 21(4), 45-47.
- Perry, W. (1970). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: A scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
- Prowse, G. (1999). Understanding praxis: Practice to theory curriculum construction. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Okanagan University College, Kelowna, British Columbia.
- Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia. (1998). Competencies required of a new graduate. Vancouver, British Columbia: Author.