Nurses are often asked by family, friends, professors, employers, and patients why they became a nurse. For me the answer is simple, nursing chose me. The same is true for why I am becoming a nurse educator. Teaching and caring for others has always been a part of my personality. However, hardships I experienced in my earlier years made it difficult to focus on my passion for education and faltered my confidence in my ability to be a good teacher. Looking back, I see that my life could have taken a very different path if it were not for a few special people. I credit them with having mentored my pursuit of education and providing the confidence and support necessary to be successful in school and ambitious in my career. As a nurse educator, I intend to provide my students with guidance, support, and mentorship. I will utilize the behaviorism, cognitive, and constructivist learning theories to foster my students nursing education.
Challenges of EducationOrder now
Students of today’s higher education system are mostly in the generation of Millennials. This generation presents new challenges to the success of their educational development. Having been raised with computers, smart phones, tablets, and much more, Millennials are often more technologically advanced than their educators (Pardue & Morgan, 2008). Although, Millennials are expected to be the next great generation for their assertiveness, positivity, and propensity for teamwork, and ability to multitask, they are exposed to tremendous amounts of information and stimulation at their fingertips which, easily distracts them (Pardue & Morgan, 2008). To combat these new challenges faculty should consider shifting from traditional curriculum methods to unconventional methods such as the use of hands-on activities, group collaboration, and new and innovative technology use (Pardue & Morgan, 2008).
Another challenge to education was noted in a qualitative study conducted on the perceptions of faculty and students regarding incivility. The study suggested that incivility was commonplace amongst both parties. Both faculty and students expressed concern that incivility fosters a negative teaching and learning environments (Clark & Springer, 2007). Faculty complained of students being disruptive in class and slandering professors outside of class. Students complained of faculty belittling them in class and exuding arrogance and condescension. To address the challenge of incivility educational institutions should provide clear and concise expectations of conduct from their faculty and students (Clark & Springer, 2007).
The shortage of nursing faculty is a major challenge facing the future of nursing education and presents several issues affect students, faculty, and patients. Each year approximately 75,000 prospective nursing students are rejected from baccalaureate nursing programs due to a shortage of faculty (Nardi & Gyurko, 2013). The faculty shortage can be attributed to several factors including the aging population of current faculty, minimal hiring of younger prospective faculty, dissatisfaction of faculty role and compensation, and the depreciation of faculty by educational institutions (Nardi & Gyurko, 2013). Without enough faculty to teach educational institutions are forced to refuse admission to prospective students, effectively worsening the nursing shortage. A study evaluated nursing faculty and students in Mississippi and found there was a decrease in the shortage of nurses when ample faculty are available in local nursing programs (Lewis, 2010).
Several studies have suggested a link between the nursing shortage and increased patient injury and death. This indicates a critical need to close the gap by increasing the number of available nursing faculty (Allen, 2008). To address the faculty shortage educational institutions, need to provide competitive salaries, hire more employees to offset the aging out of faculty, and develop mentorship programs to ease new faculty into the role (Gerolamo, Overcash, McGovern, Roemer, Bakewell-Sachs, 2014). Nurse educators should be prepared to actively participate in facing the faculty shortage by raising awareness on the issue at a local, regional, and national level. Nurse educators should also advocate for better compensation and provide shadowing opportunities for nurses to experience the nurse educator role help grow interest in nursing education (Allen, 2008).
Learning Theories and Personal Challenges
Learning theories provide a foundation for teaching and learning in the educational system and are widely used in nursing educational programs. The understanding and use of learning theories allow educators to develop and implement effective teaching methods for various types of learners (Aliakbari, Parvin, Heidari, & Haghani, 2015). I believe that to become an effective nurse educator, I will need to evaluate my own personality, strengths, weaknesses, and teaching style. My personality is optimistic, caring, curious, hard-working, ambitious, and nurturing. My strengths are shown through my leadership and advocacy skills. My weakness is that I often take command of situations and I need to be cautious to allow others a chance to speak and be heard. My teaching style takes after my personal learning style which, is kinesthetic or hands on. Not all students learn in the same way therefore, as a nurse educator I plan to be conscious to my learners needs and evaluate if my teaching style is effective.
The three learning theories I must closely relate to are behaviorism, cognitive, and constructivist. Behaviorism focuses on creating an observable change by providing stimuli until there is a response. This means the teacher actively transfers knowledge to the student who passively absorbs it (Guney & Al, 2012). This theory assumes the learner is aware of their expected outcomes and the educator is aware of their responsibility to provide the content and learning environment. This type of learning focuses feedback and reinforcement from the teacher to the learner based on the learner’s performance and expected outcomes (Keating & DeBoor, 2018). I agree with the concept of behaviorism and feel it is an effective teaching method in novice nurses because it provides them with structure and support. As a nursing preceptor I often provide feedback and reinforcement to novice nurses. Reinforcing the expectations of their outcomes allows the nurse is better able to achieve those outcomes in the future.
Cognitive learning is primarily focused on the internal processing of information. This theory allows the learner to develop the ability to organize their thoughts, critically think, and better understand information rather than memorize information (Aliakbari, Parvin, Heidari, & Haghani, 2015). I feel this learning theory is useful in novice as they will have many first experiences working in this field therefore, it is imperative they be exposed to cognitive learning and be able to use nursing knowledge from their formal education in conjunction with critical thinking skills to achieve positive patient outcomes.
Constructivist learning theory suggests that learners generate knowledge through exploration of their objective reality (Aliakbari, Parvin, Heidari, & Haghani, 2015). This theory allows the learner to use their personal, cultural, and social experiences to build new knowledge from rather than construct on their current knowledge (Guney & Al, 2012). Constructuvist learning theory allows a learner of any level, from novice to expert, to learn by modeling the actions of their teacher.
My philosophy of teaching is based on the three learning theories discussed above. I believe it is my responsibility as an educator to provide the learner with the content, environment, and learning experiences they need to achieve the outcomes which have been set for them. This reflects the behaviorist theory. As a preceptor to novice and experienced nurses I first allow them to shadow me, so they can observe how I function in my role then we discuss and debrief about the choices I made based on my nursing knowledge, experience, critical thinking, and following policy. This reflects the constructivist theory. Throughout their learning process I ask questions the learner and give them opportunity to determine answers. This helps them build their critical thinking skills which, reflects the cognitive theory. More advanced learners have likely acquired nursing knowledge, experience, and critical thinking skills but can benefit from the constructivists learning theory because it allows for developing new knowledge based on their personal, cultural, and social experiences (Guney & Al, 2012). Novice nurses however, could benefit from all three learning theories because behavioral reinforcement builds confidence in their judgement and skills, actively participating in their learning facilitates problem solving, and providing role models to observe provides them with examples of how they can improve their practice (Keating & DeBoor, 2018).
Nursing education is crucial to reducing the nursing shortage, improving patients’ outcomes, and building the nursing profession. There are many new challenges to education that come with the Millennial generation therefore educators of today and tomorrow need to be preparing to evolve to meet the new challenges and provide effective education. A major challenge facing nursing education is the shortage of faculty. By providing competitive salaries to faculty, hiring new graduate nurse educators to compensate for the loss of aging faculty, implementing respectful conduct for both faculty and students, spreading awareness about the need for faculty, and advocating for more opportunities for prospective nurse educators, the shortage can be decreased. As I continue my studies to become a nurse educator, I plan to utilize the learning theories discussed above to provide effective nursing education.