Journal of Nursing Education

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TEACHER TALK 

"She Asked This Simple Question": Reflecting and the Scholarship of Teaching

Nancy Diekelmann, PhD, RN, FAAN

Abstract

E! I very teacher has had the experience of preparing for ^just another I class." Not a difficult one or a bad one- just an ordinary one. One teacher, Parivash, described this recent experience as she prepared a class for beginning students:

We want to introduce students to the world of nursing and all the options they have. They like this part of the couree usually as I have a lot of stories and also bring in nurses to talk about their practice... usual stuff though. Today was community nursing. And I have to say this was an average group of students, and there was nothing particularly eventful going on with me or the students. ... I felt for me it was just like, you know, you prepare in your usual way. But, by break, 1 could tell the class was boring.... I was bored so I knew they had to be bored too! A lot of students were sleeping, I was talking too much, and it was like pulling teeth to get them to respond. ..during break, though, a student came up and asked a simple question that really got me thinking.

The student approached me ahyly and asked, "Will you be talking about other roles for nurses too.. .like nurse educator? *I can," I said, "Are you interested?" [She said,] "Well, maybe," and then she seemed to have trouble getting the words out, but she basically asked.-'Like how can you stand giving lectures on this stuff week after week and semester after semester? I don't mean you are boring because you are actually a pretty good lecturer.. just in general, how do you do it?.... I mean get yourself up for these lectures that I assume we have to have and you have to give.... Maybe you could tell us about that part of your role?"

At first I was taken aback and thought the student was complaining, but I soon realized she really wanted to know something from me about my life as a teacher... and my Ufe with students in the claesroom. A simple question about the role of nurse educator... she got me thinking, and all week I poured over my ideas.

Familiarity can lead to boredom. It also can bring freedom to innovate. Experienced teachers often describe the practice of "doing something new" just so the clase does not get boring. Boredom also can be a danger sign of impending disengagement, which can threaten learning. And, boredom can be contagious. I asked Parivash, "Were you sort of bored, and the students just picked up on it that day? We all have these days." Parivash replied:

Actually, I know exactly what you are asking, and it waant. There are some classes I actually hate doing and think they are boring, and I have to work extra hard to spice them up. ..(pause), and I also know that sometimes if the room is warm and students are sleepy and, well, any lecture can get boring.. .and you are right; I know I am boring when the students aren't engaged and responding. But, this day was different.... It was more perky than a boring lecture.... It was just that I felt like the old stories and stuff were just plain, nothing particularly new or interesting.... But, I tell you what this student got me thinking about was not my preparation or even my conducting the class. No, this student got me thinking about content students have to have and we as teachers think we need to give.

As Parivash continued she explored a taken-for-granted assumption common in…

E! I very teacher has had the experience of preparing for ^just another I class." Not a difficult one or a bad one- just an ordinary one. One teacher, Parivash, described this recent experience as she prepared a class for beginning students:

We want to introduce students to the world of nursing and all the options they have. They like this part of the couree usually as I have a lot of stories and also bring in nurses to talk about their practice... usual stuff though. Today was community nursing. And I have to say this was an average group of students, and there was nothing particularly eventful going on with me or the students. ... I felt for me it was just like, you know, you prepare in your usual way. But, by break, 1 could tell the class was boring.... I was bored so I knew they had to be bored too! A lot of students were sleeping, I was talking too much, and it was like pulling teeth to get them to respond. ..during break, though, a student came up and asked a simple question that really got me thinking.

The student approached me ahyly and asked, "Will you be talking about other roles for nurses too.. .like nurse educator? *I can," I said, "Are you interested?" [She said,] "Well, maybe," and then she seemed to have trouble getting the words out, but she basically asked.-'Like how can you stand giving lectures on this stuff week after week and semester after semester? I don't mean you are boring because you are actually a pretty good lecturer.. just in general, how do you do it?.... I mean get yourself up for these lectures that I assume we have to have and you have to give.... Maybe you could tell us about that part of your role?"

At first I was taken aback and thought the student was complaining, but I soon realized she really wanted to know something from me about my life as a teacher... and my Ufe with students in the claesroom. A simple question about the role of nurse educator... she got me thinking, and all week I poured over my ideas.

Familiarity can lead to boredom. It also can bring freedom to innovate. Experienced teachers often describe the practice of "doing something new" just so the clase does not get boring. Boredom also can be a danger sign of impending disengagement, which can threaten learning. And, boredom can be contagious. I asked Parivash, "Were you sort of bored, and the students just picked up on it that day? We all have these days." Parivash replied:

Actually, I know exactly what you are asking, and it waant. There are some classes I actually hate doing and think they are boring, and I have to work extra hard to spice them up. ..(pause), and I also know that sometimes if the room is warm and students are sleepy and, well, any lecture can get boring.. .and you are right; I know I am boring when the students aren't engaged and responding. But, this day was different.... It was more perky than a boring lecture.... It was just that I felt like the old stories and stuff were just plain, nothing particularly new or interesting.... But, I tell you what this student got me thinking about was not my preparation or even my conducting the class. No, this student got me thinking about content students have to have and we as teachers think we need to give.

As Parivash continued she explored a taken-for-granted assumption common in conventional pedagogy (i.e., outcomes or competency-based nursing education). She explored the role of "essential content" or course objectives in her course from some new perspectives. She commented:

I started asking myself, so why do we have to teach stuff on roles to sort of open their eyes-well, are they closed? Sort of, I mean, I have had studente come back and say I wanted to go into the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] since the first time you told me about what nurses do there. But, I got to thinking, so I get through to some students. Is this the only way and "at what cost".... I mean you connect with 7, and the other 63 students just listen and tolerate what you are saying, already having made up their mind[s] or maybe not being ready to make up their minds.... I started asking questions with the other instructors at lunch, like do we know if this is helpful, necessary and for what?.... I mean, do we think if we don't cover roles early on they [students] won't know there are a lot of roles? So if you want to get them into Psych start telling them all the roles there are or they won't go into Psych? I got to thinking, when we ask students to evaluate the course they all say, "I had no idea there are all these roles for nurses and for me to pick from!" or "I learned I wanted to be an X kind of nurse in this course." And so we assume that they won't get the same kind of insights and understandings without us presenting it in class. Like how do we know that by just hanging around nurses and a variety of clinicals they might not get the same thing? Maybe we are wasting a lot of time at the beginning with future roles.... There have to be other ways to open students' eyes, while we are better preparing them to enter practice.

But so maybe what we should do is get rid of content on roles.. .start them [students] earlier on what they want... but then again you get this, "We can't because they need their basic sciences, patho [pathology] and stuff before they are ready".... Oh, dear, you know what? This simple question got me thinking.

We should ask the students how do they want to start nursing and really listen to them. Or, maybe we should start with what we think students need and maybe we shouldn't.... There is a lot of learning on faith, and I wonder if I am not abusing this trust by asking students to learn roles of the nurse on faith without ever really checking it out or trying not teaching it. They are always being asked to learn on faith the difficult theoretical content they do... without much context to support their learning, just to be safe.

This simple question got me thinking about so much of what I do as a teacher.... She [the student] opened my eyes to all kinds of other thinking about what I do as a teacher...like what should I be talking about with students as they begin? Maybe my assumptions about needing to open their eyes isn't so good any more. The students are smarter at life, and they jump on the Internet at the blink of an eye if they need to know something, maybe they would still want to know all the areas nurses work in to keep their sights open, but maybe we could all just go into the [computer] lab and look up together all the [Web! sites that specialties in nursing have and do a different kind of assignment. Then I thought but see it is still me deciding what they should know and then figuring out a way that I can somehow teach it and interest them or I am a bad teacher. Well, maybe they would rather learn something else that is equally important. But, of course, we tried getting the students involved in their learning and some do and some don't.. .and you know we can't even get them on the curriculum committee... of course, I try to stay off the curriculum committee too!

Maybe what I am trying to tell you is that this student got me thinking about what I teach and how I teach in new ways. Well, maybe not so much new, new ways, but more thinking again and constantly challenging what we do and why we do it and how we do it. We used to do more thinking like this, but then we sort of got diverted into other things as teachers, and now we hardly talk much about the real important stuff like what are we doing with our students, and why and how?

A scholarship of teaching embraces the concept of always holding open and problematic the identification of essential content as an ever-present, contextual, political conversation. Indeed, the notion of essential content itself is open for challenge and deconstruction. The curriculum can become an oppressive system in nursing schools and can be used to distance students, to protect and safeguard certain knowledge and experiences, and to reproduce the status quo, all the while professing innovation and commitment to reform.

The curriculum often is blamed for problems, with little thought to who is the curriculum? If the curriculum were viewed as dialogue among students, teachers, and clinicians (i.e., the curriculum as conversations), would the learning climate and community engendered be enhanced? Ie it significant or a symptom when no teacher wants to teach some essential content in a required course? Is too much attention paid to teaching and not enough to the curriculum-as-lived, although teachers often profess there can be no school of nursing without a curriculum?

Questioning for Further Thinking

* Ia reflecting on the practice of teaching a skill and practice that can be taught and learned? Can this reflection be encouraged?

* Is reflecting on teaching practice the beginning of a scholarship of teaching that moves beyond technique to explore the meanings and significance of contemporary schooling, learning, and teaching?

* Is challenging the taken-for-granted and self-evident assumptions of day-today expériences in clinical and classroom courses the place to begin a scholarship of teaching that leads to developing a science of nursing education?

* How may we rethink discussions of what we teach (i.e., curriculum) to how we teach (i.e., practices)?

* What would be gained (or lost) if the curriculum was revisioned as a guide, rather than as a mandate? Could the curriculum be different every year or with every group of students? Would that necessarily be chaos? Would "accreditors" tolerate a revisioning of curriculum-as-lived?

10.3928/0148-4834-20020901-04

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