As with any educator, nurse educators rely on various teaching methods and strategies. They may alter their teaching style depending on the subject matter, the learning environment and students' needs. By customizing instructional strategies, nurse educators can ensure that students master the material and key concepts.
How Do Nurse Educators Develop Teaching Strategies?
Because of the wide variability in students' learning styles and abilities, nurse educators benefit from a bevy of instructional methods and tools. Their techniques develop further over time, but most educators will form their primary instructional beliefs and strategies from their academic experiences and practicum experiences.
Students enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Educator online program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) explore several teaching methods, including those suited for didactic, clinical and the increasingly popular online education courses. Under the guidance of experienced faculty, students develop the framework to determine the appropriate teaching style and delivery to best support student learning.
What Teaching Methods and Tools Do Nurse Educators Use?
Nursing education is constantly evolving. Educators must refine nursing curricula to achieve current educational objectives and incorporate new teaching methodologies as their effectiveness becomes apparent. Nurse educators use a variety of strategies and tools, including the innovative, practical approaches below.
Flipped classroom. This newer, popular teaching method encourages creativity, self-study and critical thinking. Educators rearrange the classroom by grouping seating or setting up learning spaces where students can interact with the materials and have time to reflect. Instead of the teacher being the primary source of information, nurse educators guide this student-centered approach, encouraging students to take the lead on knowledge construction by digging deeper into concepts and their applications.
Collaborative engagement. Nurses routinely operate as part of an interdisciplinary team, so it makes sense to introduce a collaborative framework as soon as possible. Nurse educators can create opportunities for students to learn together, practice techniques, build skills and hone their problem-solving and decision-making capacities. For example, collaborative testing — where students break into small groups to complete quizzes — encourages discussion and student-to-student teaching. Similarly, student groups may work on case studies, consider what-if scenarios and conduct simulation exercises.
Reflective activities. Self-reflection offers a safe space for students to question assumptions, evaluate performance, identify strengths and weaknesses, and brainstorm areas for improvement. Nurse educators can promote this practice through the assignment of reflective essays, role-playing exercises and learning circles, particularly after clinical experiences.
Constraints-led approach. Nursing is a dynamic career, and flexibility of thought is a skill nurse educators must instill in students. Unlike traditional linear learning models focused on detailed instruction, a constraints-led approach uses a intentionally "chaotic" environment where students actively address a problem and determine a solution.
For example, when teaching hand hygiene, a traditional teaching style outlines the step-by-step process for hand-washing. While this often works well for students with strong working memories, it decreases the available mental bandwidth. This may prevent students from fully engaging in the activity and problem-solving on the fly. A constraints-led approach — where students dip their hands in fingerpaint and then wash them until they are visibly clean — directs students toward the behavior and goal (clean hands) by coupling perception and action. The interaction can facilitate a more profound understanding and propensity for problem-solving, according to Nurse Education Today.
Remain Informed and Open-Minded
Ultimately, nurse educators teach in various settings and to students with different learning styles. Although this poses challenges, top educators develop a core foundation of teaching methods while remaining flexible and adaptable to new information and techniques. UNCW's online MSN – Nurse Educator program ensures graduates gain the knowledge and skills to select appropriate and effective instructional strategies and customize their content and delivery style to meet students' needs.
Learn more about the University of North Carolina Wilmington's online MSN – Nurse Educator program.
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