Journal of Nursing Education

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GUEST EDITORIAL 

Developing a Science of Nursing Education: Innovation With Research

Nancy Diekelmann, PhD, RN, FAAN; Pamela M Ironside, PhD, RN

Abstract

Calls for reform and innovation in nursing education are persistent. New pedagogies provide teachers with substantive alternatives for responding to the persistent challenges emerging from today's systems of health care and higher education, including increasing diversity and economic disparity in student populations, shortages of both teachers and clinicians, and concern about the quality and nature of students' experiences. Meanwhile, there has been a virtual moratorium on funding for research in nursing education. This issue of the Journal of Nursing Education features studies in which teacher-scholars examine the use of interpretive pedagogies. By doing so, they have provided rigorous, unique, and timely contributions to nursing knowledge and the science of nursing education. According to Tanner (1999):

As a discipline, nursing education must recognize the need for some portion of our academic community to be scholars and researchers in education.... We must ask who will develop the science of nursing education over the next decades (p. 51).

Currently, a great deal of innovation is occurring in almost every school of nursing that is not research-based but rather a creative response to the immediate challenges facing the particular school. As a result, the issue is not that we need more innovation but that we need more research that investigates the innovative practices we already are undertaking. It could be argued that it is unbecoming to support the development of nursing science and not a science of nursing education. It is timely for the discipline to attend to supporting and creating a research base for nursing education. Without a science of nursing education, important knowledge of best practices in teaching, learning, and schooling, the efficacy of various approaches, and the meaning of these approaches to students and teachers remains unexpbcated and anecdotal at best. The studies reported in this issue are significant in their own right, yet they also reveal the importance of creating a science of nursing education on which all practicing teachers can draw.

One could argue that these interpretive approaches are not empirical and, therefore, do not contribute to a science of nursing education. A more enlightened stance would be to see the worth of a pluralistic view of a science for nursing education that includes not only empiric-analytic studies but also studies that reflect critical social theory, feminist, phenomenological, and postmodern discourses.

Reports of interpretive research are crafted to provoke thinking. Perhaps at a time when nursing education is becoming more thought provoking, we are thinking less. With a passion and urgency to solve problems, perhaps we miss the thoughtful explications that interpretive studies, such as those described in this issue, offer. For example, Koenig and Zorn use Newman's theory of expanded consciousness to develop a nursing theorybased strategy that reflects the trend in higher education to shift from a focus on content and processes to exploring practices such as storytelling. Likewise, Young and Diekelmann explicate a research-based, discipline-specific pedagogy generated from nursing research for nursing practice and education in their interpretive study on learning to lecture. Literacy theory is used by Sakalys as the theoretical schema for using fictional and autobiographical literature to understand patients' experiences toward developing essential relational and reflective thinking skills. Cameron uses constructivist epistemology in developing a theory-based strategy (i.e., a conference) to celebrate students' work and engender community and new partnerships. Finally, Hayden-Miles explores the use of humor as a practice in an interpretive pedagogy.

Many of these studies challenge conventional pedagogy (i.e., outcomes and competency-based nursing education) to explore feminist, critical, postmodern, and phenomenological ones. For example, Doane describes an interpretive pedagogy of inquiry that embraces Paterson and Zderad's human-centered process of nursing.…

Calls for reform and innovation in nursing education are persistent. New pedagogies provide teachers with substantive alternatives for responding to the persistent challenges emerging from today's systems of health care and higher education, including increasing diversity and economic disparity in student populations, shortages of both teachers and clinicians, and concern about the quality and nature of students' experiences. Meanwhile, there has been a virtual moratorium on funding for research in nursing education. This issue of the Journal of Nursing Education features studies in which teacher-scholars examine the use of interpretive pedagogies. By doing so, they have provided rigorous, unique, and timely contributions to nursing knowledge and the science of nursing education. According to Tanner (1999):

As a discipline, nursing education must recognize the need for some portion of our academic community to be scholars and researchers in education.... We must ask who will develop the science of nursing education over the next decades (p. 51).

Currently, a great deal of innovation is occurring in almost every school of nursing that is not research-based but rather a creative response to the immediate challenges facing the particular school. As a result, the issue is not that we need more innovation but that we need more research that investigates the innovative practices we already are undertaking. It could be argued that it is unbecoming to support the development of nursing science and not a science of nursing education. It is timely for the discipline to attend to supporting and creating a research base for nursing education. Without a science of nursing education, important knowledge of best practices in teaching, learning, and schooling, the efficacy of various approaches, and the meaning of these approaches to students and teachers remains unexpbcated and anecdotal at best. The studies reported in this issue are significant in their own right, yet they also reveal the importance of creating a science of nursing education on which all practicing teachers can draw.

One could argue that these interpretive approaches are not empirical and, therefore, do not contribute to a science of nursing education. A more enlightened stance would be to see the worth of a pluralistic view of a science for nursing education that includes not only empiric-analytic studies but also studies that reflect critical social theory, feminist, phenomenological, and postmodern discourses.

Reports of interpretive research are crafted to provoke thinking. Perhaps at a time when nursing education is becoming more thought provoking, we are thinking less. With a passion and urgency to solve problems, perhaps we miss the thoughtful explications that interpretive studies, such as those described in this issue, offer. For example, Koenig and Zorn use Newman's theory of expanded consciousness to develop a nursing theorybased strategy that reflects the trend in higher education to shift from a focus on content and processes to exploring practices such as storytelling. Likewise, Young and Diekelmann explicate a research-based, discipline-specific pedagogy generated from nursing research for nursing practice and education in their interpretive study on learning to lecture. Literacy theory is used by Sakalys as the theoretical schema for using fictional and autobiographical literature to understand patients' experiences toward developing essential relational and reflective thinking skills. Cameron uses constructivist epistemology in developing a theory-based strategy (i.e., a conference) to celebrate students' work and engender community and new partnerships. Finally, Hayden-Miles explores the use of humor as a practice in an interpretive pedagogy.

Many of these studies challenge conventional pedagogy (i.e., outcomes and competency-based nursing education) to explore feminist, critical, postmodern, and phenomenological ones. For example, Doane describes an interpretive pedagogy of inquiry that embraces Paterson and Zderad's human-centered process of nursing. In the Lepp and Zorn study, the life circle, a symbol of safe space, shows how the processes of drama and an interpretive pedagogy shape learning environments. In addition, Drevdahl, Stackman, Purdy, and Louie describe a framework for enhancing the scholarship of teaching. Often these studies include a call for new methods to facilitate evaluation and the generation of pedagogical knowledge for a science of nursing education. Instruments and methods for evaluating interpretive pedagogies and innovation are largely absent.

However, making the case for a pluralistic view of a science of nursing education that includes interpretive pedagogies does not imply that empiric-analytic studies should be devalued or displaced. It is not necessary to belittle empiric-analytic studies to make a place for interpretive research. In fact, with the complexity of the contemporary issues facing teachers and students, we need both empiric-analytic and interpretive researchers to bring their talents and expertise to bear on pressing educational issues. That is, we need a science of nursing education that is committed to small studies, multimethod/multisite studies, and replication studies that represent a plurality of both scientific and interpretive approaches in both conventional and new pedagogies.

Significant issues emerge when thinking about creating a science of nursing education. First, how can we foster the widespread implementation and evaluation of proposed strategies so multisite, longitudinal studies can be initiated? Second, if multimethod evaluation studies of innovation in nursing education are to be undertaken, do we have instruments sensitive to the changes we are making? For example, in a recent multimethod study by Ironside (2002) on the implementation of a phenomenological pedagogy in an introductory course for baccalaureate students, it was discovered that the instruments used to assess changes in learning climates were constitutively pedagogy specific (in this case, specific to conventional pedagogy). Therefore, the instrument used to evaluate changes in the classroom environment yielded data that did not capture the nature of the changes being implemented and that, at times, were in direct conflict with the interpretive data.

The need for valid and reliable instruments to quantify changes occurring when implementing new pedagogies, specifically the interpretive pedagogies, is crucial. Similarly, rigorous interpretive studies that reveal the meaning of conventional pedagogies are critically needed (Diekelmann, 2001b). We have become too experienced to continue to succumb to dichotomizing either methods or pedagogies. Multimethod studies will contribute significantly to a science of nursing education by enhancing the amount and type of evidence available to guide our teaching practice, as well as our understanding of what works and what does not when trying various approaches.

We need a science for research in nursing education so the risks of innovation are reduced, while the benefits derived from such innovation can be widely used by practicing teachers. Restoring funding for research in nursing education will facilitate increasingly sophisticated and complex studies to guide and extend continued reform and innovation across all levels of nursing education (Diekelmann, 2001a). Finally, developing instruments and approaches to evaluating extant innovations and reform efforts, particularly those using the new pedagogies, will ensure that innovation is not stifled where instruments are lacking and that our science keeps pace with our teaching practice.

REFERENCES

  • Diekelmann, N.L. (2001a). Funding for research in mining education. Journal of Nursing Education, 40, 339-341.
  • Diekelmann, N. (2001b). Narrative pedagogy: Heideggerian hermeneutical analyses of the lived experiences of students, teachers and clinicians. Advances in Nursing Science, 23(3), 53-71.
  • Ironside, P.M. (2002). Trying something new: Implementing and evaluating narrative pedagogy using a multimethod approach. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  • Tanner, C. (1999). Developing the new professorate. Journal of Nursing Education, 38, 51.

10.3928/0148-4834-20020901-03

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