Career Tips

How do nurse educators use teaching methodology and pedagogy?

Career Tips

How do nurse educators use teaching methodology and pedagogy?

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To ensure the next generation of nurses is confident, compassionate, and competent, it’s down to nurse educators and senior staff to ensure students get the support and guidance they need from the moment they start their degrees. That means nurse educators frequently have to adjust and rewrite learning plans and rethink their teaching methodologies to get the best out of their students. After all, technology is always evolving, and so are patient expectations.

In this guide, we’ll look at a few ways in which nurse educators can change their approach to methodology and pedagogy and how they adapt learning principles and the basics of medical education around nurses with various learning styles.

What do methodology and pedagogy mean?

In any educational context, methodology refers to a learning or teaching system and a set of rules through which educators and students observe. It is essentially the framework for teaching practice—it covers the methods teachers use to ensure students understand course principles and pass through each module.

Pedagogy, meanwhile, covers a slightly broader base. The term typically refers to a combination of the methods used by teachers or educators to inspire their students, the activities they use, and the projects they set for trainee nurses so they can effectively measure their progress.

Ultimately, methodology and pedagogy in nursing education refer to the “what” and the “how”. The way in which nurse educators deliver methodologies and engage with students will vary from person to person and will likely even vary depending on the school and any specialisms that come into play.

When becoming nurse educators, graduate nurses will likely find that MSN nurse educator online programs—such as the University of Indianapolis’ Master of Science specialism— will help them appreciate how to build frameworks so they can adequately assess students once they head into the workforce. For example, the UoI program mentioned offers a module where nurse educator students will learn about the variety of mechanisms available to evaluate students who are getting into nursing for the first time. In this module, they also explore different clinical methods and strategies and will get the chance to explore their own teaching preferences and examine case studies from real-life scenarios.

How do nurse educators design curriculums?

Designing effective nursing curriculums for students is all about keeping material and end goals engaging and inspiring. However, there needs to be a balance with the overall aims of the nursing program in question, particularly if education is taking place within a specific hospital (and with a view to graduates eventually joining the workforce after completing their studies).

Therefore, many recommend that nurse educators consider the needs of the program(s) they suggest to students. For example, what are the mission points of the nursing program already in place? What targets should they expect of graduate nurses, and how flexible are they expected to be (e.g., will they be required to transfer across different departments or play different roles?).

Without first consulting nursing programs in place at their specific hospitals or clinics, nurse educators run the risk of designing curriculums that miss the mark. They must produce learning programs that, ultimately, satisfy the core objectives of the broader program.

Consistency is also key when designing a nursing curriculum as an educator. A workable curriculum is easy to follow and produces unified results—in that, all students should be assessed on the same merits, skills, and performance points across all modules. This way, educators can ensure their students receive fair assessments and that all have the same chance to reach the same goals. It’s important, therefore, that students have access to the same support, reading materials, and extra guidance should they request it.

Beyond this, the core of all nursing curricula should be evidence-based practice. That is, learning principles rooted in case studies of established nursing practices that are clearly documented and often peer-reviewed to ensure that what students are learning is what’s widely agreed upon. While there will be opportunities for student nurses to explore their own styles of diagnosis and treatment, nursing educators need to provide a solid core of evidence-backed concepts that students can work to and replicate in practice scenarios.

Building curricula on evidence-based practice also means that student nurses can expect to learn about consistent ethical principles, research strategies, and data handling models. The fact that much of modern nursing is rooted in evidence-based practice will also help them to easily adjust to workplace expectations once they graduate. Beyond this, how nurse educators engage and inspire their students will vary—their methodologies and overall pedagogies might differ depending on personal choices or experiences, for example.

Let’s explore a few areas of teaching methodology and pedagogy that can shape the way that educators teach student nurses in hospital classrooms.

What are some active learning strategies nurse educators employ?

Active learning is the practice of engaging with course material beyond simply looking at textbooks or completing coursework from basic guides or visual material. Active learning roots itself in the idea that students need to physically and mentally engage with their practice, and in the case of nursing students, this frequently means taking on roleplay scenarios and even simulated treatment spaces.

Nurses need to juggle a wide variety of different roles and be flexible across several departments during any one stint at a hospital or clinic. Beyond that, they also need to work with various people and specialists while striving to improve patient outcomes.

With that in mind, it stands to reason that nurses will want to be fully engaged with their practice before they head into the workforce for the first time. Nurse educators must understand that getting this engagement isn’t as simple as just providing textbooks or manuals and expecting all of the material to “sink in”.

Active learning strategies nurse educators could deploy in the classroom might include creating teamwork scenarios. For example, where small groups of students need to work together on a mock critical case. This actively engages students’ collaborative skills and also helps to show them what to expect when they eventually graduate.

Nurse educators might also encourage students to create “patient stories” from a selection of random items and details, encouraging them to think critically about their patients’ needs, and what they need to do to ensure they meet them.

Other active learning activities could include group brainstorming, facility tours, and even hands-on experiences in full simulations. Modern simulations are exceptional in that they provide almost lifelike nursing scenarios without the risk of causing harm to patients or clinic reputations! Ultimately, active learning principles aim to engage and inspire student nurses. In turn, they build crucial job skills such as collaborating with others and critical thinking.

Critical thinking is especially important when working in healthcare—it’s the practice of taking emotion and personal judgment out of the assessment process. By helping students to self-reflect and providing “teachable moments” when they make mistakes or struggle to understand concepts, nurse educators can ensure their charges graduate with the confidence and aptitude to handle complex situations.

Nurses will also need to collaborate with various specialists in any given hospital setting and may need to explore interprofessional collaboration, too, in some patient cases.

What is a learner-centered approach in nursing education?

Learner-centered or student-centered education revolves around giving people space to learn on their own. That means, in some cases, that nurse educators might set tasks, coursework, or overall goals, but will ultimately leave the exploration to their students. This isn’t a completely hands-off style of teaching, as educators should still offer guidance and support if students wish to reach out—especially if they struggle to understand assignments. However, learner-centered methodologies provide clear teaching frameworks and goals that everyone can understand— they allow students to explore concepts in groups and effectively take control of the way they study.

The core reason behind this approach in nursing education pedagogy is that once graduated, student nurses will need to think critically and on their feet in a variety of situations and changing environments. Once out of the classroom, the cases they handle will vary wildly—meaning it’s down to them to find practical solutions based on their specific learning styles.

This style of teaching also helps students to develop core competencies in nursing and to strengthen their ability to manage critical thinking and emotions on the job. Exploring and practicing on their own ensures nurses are well-prepared for occasions where they need to make critical decisions without the guidance of others—such as tutors or educators—by their side.

That isn’t to say support won’t be available once they graduate and start working in hospitals and clinics for real. In fact, truly efficient hospitals operate so well thanks to cohesive, collaborative teams and team-based strategies. Learner-focused teaching strategies prepare students by helping to foster resilience and self-confidence in time for their graduation.

How do nurse educators adapt to diverse learning styles?

One of the key challenges nurse educators likely face when designing curriculums is that they will need to design teaching methodologies around various learning styles and systems. After all, people all learn in very different ways. For example, some students will learn faster through learner-centered education, as explored above, while others will catch onto concepts and nursing methods quickly through watching videos and reading course materials. Others, meanwhile, learn by doing—in that they become competent and confident through physically exploring the principles educators show them. That’s where simulations are critical—even early on in the teaching process.

However, given the broad range of learning styles we all adopt individually, it makes sense for nurse educators to keep their curriculums and teaching methodologies as broad and as flexible as possible. For example, a curriculum including visual, practical, and self-exploration learning exercises likely appeal to most bases. That said, educators should take care not to root critical areas of the curriculum solely in one learning style. For example, it’s likely beneficial to provide separate options for studying how to administer medicine or diagnose specific conditions.

This takes us back to the learner-centered approach. Using this concept, nurse educators can create learning plans that meet the needs of a hospital’s nursing program and touch upon core ethical principles, but at the same time, give students the freedom to explore these concepts and present their own conclusions in ways they see fit. For this type of flexible system to work effectively, educators must create an equally flexible assessment and feedback system, which we will explore below.

Assessment and feedback in nursing education

Feedback is vital in any learning environment, and in nursing education, regular assessments will help nurses understand where they might need to adjust their processes, where they can try different lines of thinking, and how they can tackle certain cases differently in the future.

Nurse educators need to design feedback and assessment systems that are fair and balanced across all students. Consistency is key—and when adapting to multiple different learning styles through a learner-centered system, educators need to have a clear “checklist” to ensure their students are showing a good enough understanding of core principles.

Assessing and feeding back allows nursing students to learn from and appreciate their mistakes early on in their education. In an industry where patient health is at stake, it’s vital that nurses understand they will make mistakes throughout their education and that their educators are on hand to help them become more confident, not just more competent.

Assessing multiple times across modules gives students ample opportunities to “bounce back” and try new strategies if they wish. Again, a flexible feedback model encourages students to explore principles at their own pace, therefore strengthening their competencies when they eventually graduate.

Nurse educators are more than just teachers

Nurse educators do more than just actively teach students about healthcare principles. They work hard to design learning plans and experiences that appeal to a variety of learning styles, meaning drafting curricula is an exciting challenge from year to year. Thankfully, educators can learn more about the best practices in designing teaching methodologies through MSN programs. Don’t forget, there’s always support available.

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