Introducing a research course in the first semester at the undergraduate level can be challenging. However, it is essential to expose and teach prenursing students the importance of evidence-based practice and the reasoning behind acquiring, appraising, and applying evidence by first cultivating a spirit of inquiry (Melnyk et al., 2010; Sin & Bliquez, 2017). The internet is filled with news articles that report, appraise, and comment on scientific discoveries daily. Instead of critiquing peer-reviewed articles that are commonly recommended to senior nursing students, prenursing students were challenged to evaluate and critique news coverage found in the media. Adopted from a conference workshop (Reynolds et al., 2019), a team-based research assignment was implemented for prenursing students to present on recently reported news coverage that related to sleep and explain whether the news provided accurate information as supported by the research to date. The learning goal was to apply critical thinking skills and the method of close reading, assessment, analysis, synthesis, and an introduction to team-based learning. The objectives included (a) identification of a recent news article and a peer-reviewed article related to a topic on sleep, (b) effective communication and teamwork, and (c) determination of appropriate conclusions through in-class presentations and feedback from peers and course faculty.
Three to four students were randomly grouped in teams to find relevant news articles related to sleep released within the past 12 months. Then, the librarian taught students how to search for peer-reviewed articles in electronic library databases, including PubMed®, CINAHL®, and Google Scholar™. After the selected news articles and scientific peer-reviewed article were approved by the course faculty based on relevance and novelty, student teams were encouraged to continue working outside of class in preparation for the final project assignment, entitled Sleep in the News.
The current project gave students the opportunity to work collaboratively with their teammates, discuss what inspired them to select the topic on sleep, summarize both the news article from the media and peer-reviewed article, and present whether the news article reported accurate and evidence-based information as supported by the research to date. Each student was responsible for all aspects of the project, including identifying a particular topic on sleep, selecting a peer-reviewed article, and interpreting and presenting their findings to the class. An exemplar presentation was modeled by the teaching assistant (TA) in class using PowerPoint® slides a few weeks prior to the assignment due date. For instance, the TA presented on the topic of conventional sleep trackers (e.g., Fitbit®, smartphone apps), based on a news report describing sleep trackers as a tool that could exacerbate the symptoms of insomnia. The TA then presented on the selected peer-reviewed article that compared the accuracy of the commercially available Fitbit device with polysomnography (the gold standard method) in patients with insomnia and patients who are good sleepers (Kang et al., 2017). Any mode of electronic presentation (e.g., PowerPoint, Prezi™, VideoScribe®) was encouraged. Guidelines for the presentation required approximately 15 slides including references. Team members were required to present equally, and presentations were limited to 15 to 20 minutes per team, with 5 to 10 additional minutes for questions and class discussion.
Nine teams of first-year prenursing students (n = 28) presented on various recent topics in the media related to sleep. These topics included cannabidiol, college students and stress, use of substances (i.e., alcohol, nicotine, caffeine), vaping, light therapy, smart-phone use, daytime naps, later school start time, and truck drivers behind the wheel. Each student participated equally and successfully introduced both news and research articles succinctly. Afterward, the team revealed their level of support for the way the news articles were presented, given the research. The class then had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the findings. The consensus in each case revealed the need for further research.
Students reported that the Sleep in the News project was enjoyable but difficult to understand at first. Although some students reported having difficulty finding the most appropriate research article in the electronic database or comprehending the methodology section, many reported being comfortable with understanding their research article after observing the exemplar presentation modeled by the TA. Students expressed that they were able to better absorb the content of the presentation on sleep in the news and gain an understanding of the importance on what is deemed “backed by evidence.” Students were also left with the understanding that a conclusion cannot be drawn by merely examining one or two research articles, and that not all research may be in an agreement.
The purpose of this assignment was to inspire prenursing students to be curious about research. Having students identify both an article about sleep in the news and a research article on the same topic helped students to recognize how science is portrayed in the media. Although one research article was inadequate to either support or refute the media findings, it was a good introduction on the process for the students. Incorporating such an assignment provides an excellent opportunity for a potentially gratifying introduction to promoting a spirit of inquiry, team-based learning, and research critique.
Misol Kwon, BS, RN
Grace E. Dean, PhD, RN
School of Nursing
University at Buffalo
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- Reynolds, A., Carskadon, M., Dement, W., Mindell, J., Montgomery-Downs, H., Scullin, M. & Wamsley, E. ( 2019, June 8–12. ). The A to Zzzs of teaching undergraduate sleep courses. [Conference]. Uncover Sleep, San Antonio. .
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