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Strategies to Ignite Learning in Nursing Education and Staff Development

Updated: May 25, 2021

While working with nursing students it is imperative that the nurse educator assess the students as individual learners with individual needs. Learning varies from student to student, so the nurse educator should work closely and collaboratively with them to determine their individual learning needs, readiness to learn, and preferred learning styles. Understanding this information, along with individualized goals for learning, enables the educator to develop unique teaching plans that utilize various teaching methods. The active teaching processes of journaling, written assignments via discussion postings, and portfolio entry design encourage development of student learning, and lend to the use of both summative and formative feedback when used in conjunction with one another. Activities should be designed to spark learning of the expected module objectives and align with course and program outcomes. Careful attention to the various intrinsic motivations and personal learning environment needs is essential.

The use of written assignment via discussion postings can be integrated into each weekly learning module to promote critical thinking development and examination of content. Course discussion has much strength when tailored to the given circumstance to align with the module’s learning objectives and assigned readings. Written assignments should progress in complexity throughout the program in order to improve writing skills and develop learning. Written assignments can be completed with guidance from the nurse educator through active participation in course discussions. Assessment of written assignments via course discussions should be ongoing, along with providing feedback utilizing a scoring rubric with predetermined objectives at regular intervals, such as weekly. Written work, such as course papers, should be evaluated based on predetermined criteria. The criteria should include the quality of content, the flow and organization of material, and the process of determining conclusions or presenting an argument. With written assignments, formative or summative feedback can be used.

If introspection supports an intended goal of learning for a given course or is a preferred method of learning, journaling can prove to be constructive. Journals promote the examination of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Through this type of written assignment, students are encouraged to reflect on their learning and development; considering how they have grown and establishing plans for future growth. Each week, students can reflect in their journals on current focus areas of learning to align with the module’s intended outcomes and the student's personal educational goals. The journal should be viewable by the student and professor only; unless, of course, the student opts to share their reflective practice with others. With journaling, formative feedback is typically most appropriate.

Another helpful teaching method is the use of portfolio entry design within the course. Portfolio work is a worthy teaching and learning tool as it encourages self-examination and, often times, presents something fresh for the student to engage in. For example, a student could design a portfolio entry on personal philosophy of nursing practice with integration of the Synergy Model for Patient Care, if applicable. The opportunities with this are truly endless. Portfolio development can allow for both formative and summative feedback to be given.


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