Journal of Nursing Education

Major Article 

Creating a Successful Environment for Preparing Doctoral-Level Nurse Educators

Roy Ann Sherrod, DSN, RN, CNE; Rick Houser, PhD; Becky Odom-Bartel, MS; Donna Packa, DSN, RN; Vivian Wright, PhD; Linda Dunn, DSN, RN, CNL; Marietta Stanton, PhD, RN, NEA-BC; Stephen Tomlinson, PhD

Abstract

The ongoing nursing shortage requires that universities be creative in developing alternative methods to enhance the supply of nursing faculty. We report on an innovative collaborative program between colleges of nursing and education to prepare future nursing faculty. The evaluation of this initiative was accomplished using comparative data from doctoral students in other non-nursing programs. We found that the nurse educator program was positive in influencing students’ knowledge and skill development and perceptions of faculty support, compared with other non-nursing doctoral programs.

Dr. Sherrod is Professor of Nursing, Dr. Packa is former Professor and Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Dunn is Professor of Nursing, Dr. Stanton is Professor and Assistant Dean Graduate Program, Capstone College of Nursing, Dr. Houser is Professor and Department Head, Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology & Counseling, Dr. Wright is Associate Professor, Department of Teacher Education, and Dr. Tomlinson is Department Chair, Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Education, The University of Alabama; and Ms. Odom-Bartel is Tide Together and Graduate Ambassador Coordinator, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Roy Ann Sherrod, DSN, RN, CNE, Professor of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Capstone College of Nursing, Box 870358, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0358; e-mail: rsherrod@bama.ua.edu.

Received: April 13, 2011
Accepted: April 04, 2012
Posted Online: July 06, 2012

Abstract

The ongoing nursing shortage requires that universities be creative in developing alternative methods to enhance the supply of nursing faculty. We report on an innovative collaborative program between colleges of nursing and education to prepare future nursing faculty. The evaluation of this initiative was accomplished using comparative data from doctoral students in other non-nursing programs. We found that the nurse educator program was positive in influencing students’ knowledge and skill development and perceptions of faculty support, compared with other non-nursing doctoral programs.

Dr. Sherrod is Professor of Nursing, Dr. Packa is former Professor and Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Dunn is Professor of Nursing, Dr. Stanton is Professor and Assistant Dean Graduate Program, Capstone College of Nursing, Dr. Houser is Professor and Department Head, Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology & Counseling, Dr. Wright is Associate Professor, Department of Teacher Education, and Dr. Tomlinson is Department Chair, Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Education, The University of Alabama; and Ms. Odom-Bartel is Tide Together and Graduate Ambassador Coordinator, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Roy Ann Sherrod, DSN, RN, CNE, Professor of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Capstone College of Nursing, Box 870358, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0358; e-mail: rsherrod@bama.ua.edu.

Received: April 13, 2011
Accepted: April 04, 2012
Posted Online: July 06, 2012

The nursing shortage is directly related to the shortage of nursing faculty (Allen, 2008; National League for Nursing, 2010). Addressing the nursing shortage requires many strategies, but perhaps the strategy that is most critical is one that focuses on not only increasing the number of nurse faculty but also creating a pool of nurse faculty who are prepared to produce students who have the requisite skills and knowledge to function successfully in today’s complex health care environment. Recently, the Robert Wood Johnson Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in its report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health (2010b), called for nurses to achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved educational system that promotes seamless academic progression. In a more specific document, The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education, the committee noted:

A more educated nursing workforce would be better equipped to meet the demands of an evolving health care system. Nurses with doctorates are needed to teach future generations of nurses and to conduct research that becomes the basis for improvements in nursing science and practice. The committee recommends doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.

College of Nursing faculty, College of Education faculty, and administrators at a southeastern university recognized the need for the preparation of nurse faculty who were not only doctorally prepared but prepared specifically as nurse educators who were well equipped to produce nurses ready to function in the complex and changing health care and higher education environments (Bartels, 2007). Faculty were also aware that to address the nursing faculty shortage, creating and sustaining an environment conducive to retaining and graduating the highest number of students who started the program was critical. This article is a description of a model developed by two disciplines within one university academic environment to promote retention and graduation. Our evaluation is based on data obtained from student feedback that reflects their perception of the academic environment.

Background

The Doctorate of Education in Instructional Leadership for Nurse Educators was created and designed to prepare practicing nurses for faculty positions as nurse educators in colleges and universities. Courses for this interdisciplinary degree program began in 2007 and are taught by College of Nursing faculty and College of Education faculty. Faculty members collaborate on program curriculum to offer students the opportunity to combine their nursing expertise with their passion for teaching. The program fosters professional growth, teaching skills, technological expertise, outcome assessment development, and techniques to advise students through multiple nursing programs. The program of study represents a blend of graduate-level nursing and education courses, providing a curriculum that differs from traditional doctoral programs in education because of its unique focus on both disciplines.

Students are admitted to the doctoral nurse educator program each year in a cohort model and progress through the program together as a team. Approximately 25 students are admitted in each cohort and complete eight semesters of coursework together, at a minimum of two courses per semester, including summers, while the program provides additional support and opportunities for building professional relationships. Students interact with each other face-to-face and through distance learning for eight semesters of coursework. Each semester, students work in a group setting and are encouraged to move forward as a group. Students participate in a cohort mentoring program that allows students in the program to interact with incoming students. Activities for degree completion are structured based on a cohort model and reflect creation of an academic environment with unique opportunities for collaboration among students and faculty. Students are exposed to activities in the program designed to promote skills needed for success as nursing faculty members—for example, grant writing, dissertation workshops, guest speakers—that focus on their research trajectory, funding, and program outcomes.

The nurse educator program is governed by an interdisciplinary steering committee composed of four nursing faculty and four education faculty, with one faculty member from each college serving as committee co-chairs. The committee meets monthly to discuss university and program policies, procedures, student orientations, a comprehensive examination, dissertation guidance, admissions, recruitment, awards, and fellowships. Promoting student program success is a priority. In addition, a mentoring and recruitment coordinator provides support to the committee for administrative responsibilities, recruitment efforts, and student advisement.

The need for creation of this innovative program is supported by the literature. Bair, Haworth, and Sandfort (2004) reported positive effects from interactions of doctoral students in academic and social settings. Over 128 interviews conducted across 12 institutions provided several relevant themes. In particular, the defining and shaping of the program culture was a predominate theme throughout the interviews. Students thought that creating a sense of “family” and a climate that is educational and “supportive” was extremely important. A sense of community was highly praised as a contributing factor to student success. Mullen and Tuten (2010) also stated that doctoral mentoring cohorts increase students’ contentment and quality of work in areas such as research, writing, and problem solving, and that cohort members are more likely to complete their degree program than noncohort students. The authors attributed much of the students’ success to opportunities for them to converse with a peer group and experience the feeling of camaraderie. Accountability and connectedness were strongly associated with being a part of a group. In addition, Mullen and Tuten (2010) pointed out that mentoring cohorts can stimulate higher order critical thinking and provide an environment conducive to intellectual development.

Doctorally prepared nurses are needed for the development and application of new knowledge within the nursing profession. However, these numbers of doctorally prepared nurses are few, with a trend toward decreasing numbers of doctorally prepared graduates (Smith & Delmore, 2007). According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2005), the number of nursing doctoral programs has increased by 53% but the number of graduates from these doctoral programs has not followed this trend. Doctoral study can be particularly stressful given that many doctoral students face the challenges of both work and family along with their educational obligations. Therefore, the need for a supportive environment increases significantly for them (Lee, 2009). Smith and Delmore (2007) noted that there are three key components to completion of a doctoral program—determining the type of program needed, having a strategic plan for completion, and creating a systematic approach to completing requirements. They further noted within these three key elements that a good match between the goals of the program and those of the students was critical to completion of doctoral programs. Developing and maintaining a support system was also highlighted as fundamental to completing a degree.

On the basis of data from the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, Walker, Golde, Jones, Bueschel, and Hutchings (2008) noted that there are a number of challenges in doctoral education and that doctoral education has to be rethought for the future. Given that approximately half of all doctoral students are lost to attrition, the rethinking becomes even more critical for doctoral nursing education to meet the challenges both within and outside of programs. Externally, these challenges include shifting demographics, new kinds of accountability, shrinking public investments, and increasing public expectations. Challenges within the program include unclear rationales for department expectations, poor communication among members of the program, and general inattention to student progress. All of these factors may have influence on the academic environment and the need to understand that environment and effective strategies within that environment is critical to increasing the number of doctorally prepared nursing faculty.

The program described in this article is an attempt to promote an academic environment for nurse educator doctoral students that provides clear communication among faculty from diverse backgrounds, nursing and education. It is also an attempt to identify those factors that foster student learning and openness to learning.

Purpose

This study was undertaken because it is crucial to determine whether this program’s innovative approach to the preparation of nurse educators is promoting students’ acquisition of knowledge and expertise applicable to practice as a nurse educator. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether a collaborative effort between education and nursing faculty resulted in a positive academic learning environment that enhanced nurse education and promoted retention of students, compared with more traditional and alternative doctoral programs. Data from this evaluation were deemed significant in addressing student needs and providing relevant sources of support that would facilitate their retention and graduation from the program.

Research Questions

The following questions were addressed in this evaluation:

  • How do nurse educator doctoral students attending a blended cohort model program perceive their educational environment, compared with other doctoral students in traditional programs?
  • Is there a difference in the program satisfaction of nurse educator doctoral students, compared with other traditional doctoral program students?
  • Is there a difference in the perceptions of nurse educator doctoral students on knowledge and skill achievement, compared with other traditional doctoral program students?
  • Is there a difference in the perceptions of nurse educator doctoral students on practice and application of their knowledge, compared with other doctoral program students?

Method

Sample

After receiving approval from the institutional review board, students were recruited from three doctoral programs within a single university: nursing education, instructional technology, and higher education. The nurse educator doctoral program was a cohort model and primarily campus based. Students attended classes once per month, mostly on weekends (Friday and Saturday). A few courses were offered primarily online, and some were offered in a blended onsite and online format. The instructional technology program, a noncohort model, was offered in a traditional campus-based format with several online courses. The higher education program was also a cohort model, offered as an alternative method, with weekend instruction and online support. Nurse educator program faculty were equally represented from the College of Nursing and the College of Education. All faculty teaching in the higher education and instructional technology program were from the college of education. All current students in the three doctoral programs were contacted regarding participation in this study. Surveys were e-mailed to 72 students in the nurse educator doctoral program representing four cohorts, 23 students in the higher education doctoral program representing two cohorts, and 36 students in the instructional technology doctoral program, which did not have a cohort model. Completion of the survey indicated consent; the response rate by program was 42 (58%) of the nurse educator doctoral students, six (17%) of the instructional technology doctoral students, and 11 (48%) of the higher education doctoral students.

Instruments: Data Collection

Data were collected from three doctoral programs using a survey adapted from one previously developed by the university Office of Institutional Research and Assessments. Five questions, some with subquestions, addressed the academic environment using a Likert scale (Table 1). An online survey platform, Qualtrics, which allows easy access for respondents to complete a survey, was used. With e-mail addresses obtained from the student database, students were sent the survey, along with information about the study, use of the data, anonymity, and informed consent, as well as a request to respond. The survey platform automatically was set to resend the survey on a weekly basis for 1 month to those not responding. The survey was anonymous, as no links were established between responses and students.

Survey of Student Perceptions of Doctoral Training

Table 1: Survey of Student Perceptions of Doctoral Training

Results

Because there were differences in sample sizes by group, nonparametric statistics were used to analyze data. Responses to survey question one were used to answer research question one, related to doctoral nurse educator students’ perceptions of their academic environment, compared with perceptions of the academic environment from doctoral students in other majors. Students were asked to rate their assessment of the academic environment. Means and standard deviations are reported in Table 2. A Kruskal–Wallis test was used to compare differences among program students. A χ2 = 6.374 was found, which was significant at 0.041. Post hoc analyses and dyad group comparisons using a Mann–Whitney test indicated significant differences between nurse educator students and instructional technology doctoral students (z = −2.275 at a significance level of 0.023). Nurse educator doctoral students reported higher ratings on a positive academic environment, compared with instructional technology doctoral students who attend a traditional on-campus program (Table 2). No differences were found between nurse educator doctoral students and higher education doctoral students. Both the nurse educator and higher education doctoral programs use a cohort model and an alternative instructional format (i.e., weekends).

Characterization of the Academic Environment in Three Doctoral Programs

Table 2: Characterization of the Academic Environment in Three Doctoral Programs

In an effort to answer research question two, related to differences in the program satisfaction of nurse educator doctoral students, compared with other doctoral program students, two survey questions were assessed. One question concerned students’ evaluation of their overall education, and a second question asked whether they would still choose to enter the program if they had another option. Means and standard deviations are reported in Table 3. A Kruskal–Wallis test was used to determine whether there were any differences among the three groups for both survey questions (Table 1). Analysis of responses for the survey question related to overall evaluation of the program resulted in χ2 = 20.064, which was significant at 0.000. Post hoc analyses using Mann–Whitney tests showed significant differences among nurse educator doctoral students, instructional technology doctoral students, and higher education doctoral students. Nurse educator doctoral students indicated they had significantly lower satisfaction with the program than did their peers in other programs (Table 3). No significant differences were noted between doctoral students in the instructional technology and higher education programs. The Kruskal–Wallis test for whether students would still choose to enter the program found χ2 = 20.264, with a level of significance of 0.000. Again, nurse educator doctoral students reported lower satisfaction than did doctoral students in both instructional technology and higher education. Mann–Whitney tests resulted in z = −3.574 at 0.000 significance for comparisons between nurse educator doctoral students and instructional technology doctoral students and z = 3.492 at 0.000 significance for differences between nurse educator doctoral students and higher education doctoral students. Nurse educator doctoral students consistently reported lower program satisfaction than did doctoral students in higher education and instructional technology (Table 3).

Satisfaction With the Doctoral Program

Table 3: Satisfaction With the Doctoral Program

In an effort to answer research question three, related to differences in perceptions of nurse educator doctoral students on knowledge and skill achievement compared with other doctoral program students, multiple comparisons were made on 13 related questions (Table 1). Kruskal–Wallis tests were calculated on each question. The knowledge and skills addressed included writing skills, listening skills, comprehension skills, scientific methods of inquiry, analytic skills, computer skills, public speaking skills, information-gathering skills, functioning as part of a team, working with individuals from diverse backgrounds, recognizing and acting on ethical principles, appreciation of racial diversity, and appreciation of gender equality. Five significant results were obtained.

First, significant differences were found for ratings of developing computer skills (χ2 = 11.344, with a significance of 0.003). Post hoc analyses, using Mann–Whitney tests, resulted in z = −3.404 with a significance level of 0.001 between nurse educator doctoral students and higher education doctoral students (Table 4). No other differences among groups were noted. Second, a significant difference was found among groups where students thought their education contributed to the development of skills in working with people from diverse backgrounds. The Kruskal–Wallis test resulted in χ2 = 7.07, with a 0.030 level of significance (Table 4). Significant differences were found only between nurse educator doctoral students and instructional technology doctoral students, with nurse educator doctoral students reporting higher levels of skill development in working with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Third, the Kruskal–Wallis test for comparing the group differences for development of an appreciation of racial equality found significant differences (χ2 = 15.952, with a 0.000 level of significance). Mann–Whitney test results indicated that nurse educator doctoral students reported more skill development in appreciating racial equality than did higher education doctoral students or instructional technology doctoral students (z = −3.047 for nurse educator and instructional technology group comparisons, with a 0.002 level of significance, and z = −3.146, with a 0.002 level of significance, for comparison between nurse educator doctoral students and higher education doctoral students) (Table 4). No significant differences were found between higher education doctoral students and instructional technology doctoral students. Fourth, a Kruskal–Wallis test was computed for comparing differences in perceptions of student development in appreciation of gender equality (χ2 = 13.581, with a level of significance of 0.001) (Table 4). Significant differences again were found among nurse educator doctoral students and the other two groups, instructional technology and higher education doctoral students. Nurse educator doctoral students reported significantly higher levels of skills development in gender equity. Mann–Whitney test post hoc analyses showed comparison between nurse educator doctoral students and instructional technology doctoral students to be z = −3.047, with a 0.002 level of significance. Differences between nurse educator students and higher education doctoral students showed a Mann–Whitney test value of z = −2.649, with a 0.008 level of significance (Table 4). No differences were noted between instructional technology and higher education doctoral students. Fifth, Kruskal–Wallis test results related to skill and knowledge development were significant for recognizing and acting on ethical principles (χ2 = 7.371, with a 0.025 level of significance) (Table 4). Significant differences were found using a Mann–Whitney test, post hoc, among the nurse educator doctoral students and the other two groups (instructional technology and higher education doctoral students) and resulted in z = −3.047, with a 0.002 level of significance (comparison between nurse educators and instructional technology students) and z = −3.146, with a 0.002 level of significance (comparison between nurse educator and higher education doctoral students). Nurse educator doctoral students reported more knowledge development related to recognizing and acting on ethical principles than did the other two groups (Table 4).

Ratings of Development of Knowledge and Skills by Doctoral Program

Table 4: Ratings of Development of Knowledge and Skills by Doctoral Program

Research question four was related to whether there was a difference in the perceptions of nurse educator doctoral students on the practice and application of their knowledge, compared with other programs’ doctoral students. Three items from survey question five were analyzed to answer this question (Table 1). A Kruskal–Wallis test was calculated on each item, and it was found that only one of these items regarding students’ feeling that they have applied knowledge gained to contexts outside the classroom was significantly different among groups (χ2 = 5.787, with a significance level of 0.055). The only significant difference was between nurse educator and instructional technology doctoral students (z = −2.265, with a significance level of 0.088) (Table 5). Nurse educator doctoral students thought their courses gave them more applied knowledge than did students in the instructional technology program. Also, students from higher education had significantly higher ratings on the application of knowledge to practice than did students in the instructional technology program (Table 5).

Practice and Application of Knowledge by Doctoral Program

Table 5: Practice and Application of Knowledge by Doctoral Program

Discussion and Recommendations

The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of a collaborative doctoral training nurse education program in promoting students’ acquisition of knowledge and expertise to practice as nurse educators. We compared the doctoral-level nurse educator program with two other doctoral programs—one that was a traditional campus program and a second that was a cohort model somewhat similar to the nurse cohort model (the major difference centered on the collaboration between nursing and education). Survey results regarding the five research questions are mostly positive. The finding of this study that nursing is significantly different than the comparison groups in several areas lends support to efforts of nursing and education faculty and administration to create an environment conducive to students’ success in the program.

With regard to research question one and the doctoral students’ perception of the academic environment at the university, there is clear indication that nursing students view their intellectual, and thereby academic, environment as positive. A positive environment has been noted by Lee (2009) as a significant need for doctoral students, and results from the current study indicate that such an environment exists in this blended format, cohort model. Of note, the comparison of cohort nurse educator doctoral students with the instructional technology noncohort group environmental perceptions revealed a significant difference, but no significant difference was found with comparison of nursing with the other cohort group, higher education. These findings suggest that the cohort model may assist in creating positive academic environments based on the structure of how the students progress through the program and are consistent with the findings of Mullen and Tuten (2010).

In their responses to research question two, nurse educator doctoral students indicated lower overall satisfaction with the program than did the other doctoral groups, which warrants additional exploration. When compared with other doctoral students, the nursing students’ lesser satisfaction may be attributable to several factors. One explanation may be the demands on the nurse educator doctoral students. They are typically working full time in nursing or education, and the demands of the program are significant given that they are required to enroll in at least two courses per semester. There may be other issues related to the fact that this is a blended program with a portion of the classes online. Perhaps these doctoral-level nursing students prefer face-to-face classes.

The fact that responses by nurse educator doctoral students regarding choosing the program again indicates less satisfaction is somewhat surprising, given that they rated the academic environment as more positive than did other groups. Perhaps there are factors within the larger university environment that could be reinforced better within the program’s interactions with students. As Bair, Haworth, and Sandfort (2004) noted, defining and shaping a program culture is critical to student success.

Research question three results—related to perceptions of contributions of the program to nurse educator doctoral students’ knowledge, skills, or personal development—indicate that program goals related to teaching skills, technological expertise, and professional growth are being met from the nurse educator doctoral students’ perspective. These results may also indicate that the external challenges noted by Walker et al. (2008) for doctoral programs are being addressed. For example, changing demographics was one area they noted, and the nurse educator doctoral students in the current study indicated that the graduate program contributed significantly to their ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds and appreciate gender and racial equality. This finding suggests that program faculty may be exhibiting these abilities and thereby creating a positive environment. The findings are also consistent with the perspectives of Mullen and Tuten (2010) related to cohorts stimulating higher order thinking. When compared with other doctoral students, nurse educator doctoral students’ perception of this contribution is significantly more positive in the current study.

Research question four results related to student perceptions of program practice and application of their knowledge indicated only one area—application of knowledge gained outside of the classroom—with a positive significant difference between the three doctoral student groups. It seems logical to assume that the value of knowledge gained can influence decisions to continue to obtain that knowledge and thereby affects retention of students in the programs. Nurse educator doctoral students’ more positive rating in this area is encouraging.

One explanation for the positive results is that faculty from these two colleges provide slightly different perspectives, which complement each other. Kuhn (1970) suggested that different views of science or disciplines and paradigms create conflict and may not result in an integration or consideration of more than one perspective. What this means for the results of the current study may be that introducing nurse educators to two different perspectives, nursing and education, may promote the development of integration and a better understanding of issues such as diversity and ethics. Students are challenged to integrate the two perspectives and consequently may develop a better model of understanding complex issues. Also, students rating their intellectual academic environments highly may be a consequence of exposure to new paradigms and opportunities to explore integration of the two perspectives.

Several important limitations and issues should be mentioned. First, the large difference in samples from the doctoral programs compared may have contributed to finding specific differences. However, the use of more conservative nonparametric statistics has addressed this issue to some degree. Certainly, in the future, a larger comparison group should be sought and consequently can provide additional support or data to determine whether the outcomes achieved were real differences. Second, the use of self-report survey data collection strategies and the inherent biases must be acknowledged. Also, the model proposed here involved considerable collaboration between two colleges, a college of nursing and a college of education. This collaboration involved monthly meetings of a steering committee and day-long faculty retreats once per year to review evaluation feedback and identify areas for growth. Also, the Interdisciplinary Steering Committee organizes the faculty for dissertation completion and matches students and faculty to best meet dissertation completion requirements. At the beginning of every semester when students come to campus, time is set aside to address the dissertation and for students and dissertation faculty to meet. All of these efforts require considerable time and energy and, depending on a university’s resources, may not be feasible in our current model. However, variations of this model may still hold promise and be effective. For example, the efforts and time of a steering committee may be reduced.

Implications and Conclusions

Several implications can be drawn from the current study. Nurse educators should be open to innovative models and strategies that can promote student success. Practicing nurses who are interested in making the transition to faculty roles by first pursuing higher education should consider the environmental factors that will enhance their success. In addition, there is a need for research that focuses on developing a deeper understanding of what contributed to several of the positive outcomes. For example, the finding that these nurse educators reported a high-level intellectual academic environment is encouraging, but the specific nature or characteristics of that environment may be understood in much greater depth by using qualitative methods of data inquiry. Further, an important contribution to the literature would be the use of comparison groups from across the country. The current samples were chosen from one southeastern university.

Data from this evaluation are consistently positive in most areas deemed important for creating a positive academic environment. These findings suggest that the format for delivery of the program and the environment within which it is offered may be effective in promoting student retention and, ultimately, graduation. Graduating more nurse educators will address a critical need in this country that is relevant to the quality of health care for every citizen—the nursing shortage.

References

Survey of Student Perceptions of Doctoral Training

Survey Question

All things considered, how would you characterize the intellectual environment at this university?

All things considered, how would you evaluate the overall graduate education that you received at this university to date?

If you had to start over again, would you still choose to attend this university?

To what extent do you think your graduate education at this university contributed to your knowledge, skills, and/or personal development in each of the following areas?

Writing skills

Listening skills

Comprehension skills (written information)

Scientific methods of inquiry

Analytic skills

Computer skills

Public speaking skills

Information-gathering skills

Functioning as part of a team

Working with people from diverse backgrounds

Recognizing and acting on ethical principles

Appreciation of racial equality

Appreciation of gender equality

Please assess your department and its faculty members for each of the following:

Do you feel you have applied knowledge gained in your courses to contexts outside of the classroom?

Have your courses provided opportunities for you to express your ideas in writing?

Have your courses provided opportunities for you to express your ideas orally?

Did at least one faculty member in your program demonstrate an interest in your academic progress?

Have faculty encouraged you to be an actively involved learner?

Have faculty given you prompt feedback?

Do faculty care about your academic success?

Characterization of the Academic Environment in Three Doctoral Programs

GroupMeanNSD
Nurse educators4.5952*420.58683
Instructional technology3.833360.98319
Higher education4.3636110.50452
Total4.4746590.65274

Satisfaction With the Doctoral Program

GroupEvaluation of Overall EducationStill Choose to Attend Program
Nurse educators
  Mean3.7381***3.6585***
  N4242
  SD0.496800.57488
Instructional technology
  Mean4.5004.6667
  N66
  SD0.836660.57488
Higher education
  Mean4.63644.4545
  N1111
  SD0.504520.68755
Total
  Mean3.98313.9138
  N5959
  SD0.656310.70796

Ratings of Development of Knowledge and Skills by Doctoral Program

GroupDevelop Computer SkillsAble To Work With Diverse BackgroundsRecognize Ethical PrinciplesAppreciate Racial EqualityAppreciate Gender Equality
Nurse educators
  Mean2.6829**2.3846*2.5641**2.6053***2.6053***
  N4139393838
  SD0.567410.711390.598020.594550.59455
Instructional technology
  Mean2.2001.66672.20001.60001.6000
  N665a5a5a
  SD1.095450.516400.447210.547720.54772
Higher education
  Mean1.8002.0002.0001.90002.000
  Na1010101010
  SD0.788810.666670.666670.567650.66667
Total
  Mean2.48212.23642.42592.37742.3962
  N5655545353
  SD0.738330.719150.632510.685750.68891

Practice and Application of Knowledge by Doctoral Program

GroupApplied Knowledge That Can Be Used Outside Classroom
Nurse educators
  Mean3.7561*
  N41
  SD0.53761
Instructional technology
  Mean3.333
  N6
  SD0.51640
Higher education
  Mean3.8182****
  N11
  SD0.40452
Total
  Mean3.7241
  N58
  SD0.52292
Authors

Dr. Sherrod is Professor of Nursing, Dr. Packa is former Professor and Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Dunn is Professor of Nursing, Dr. Stanton is Professor and Assistant Dean Graduate Program, Capstone College of Nursing, Dr. Houser is Professor and Department Head, Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology & Counseling, Dr. Wright is Associate Professor, Department of Teacher Education, and Dr. Tomlinson is Department Chair, Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Education, The University of Alabama; and Ms. Odom-Bartel is Tide Together and Graduate Ambassador Coordinator, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Roy Ann Sherrod, DSN, RN, CNE, Professor of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Capstone College of Nursing, Box 870358, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0358; e-mail: rsherrod@bama.ua.edu.

Received: April 13, 2011
Accepted: April 04, 2012
Posted Online: July 06, 2012

10.3928/01484834-20120706-01

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