Approach to Teaching

Education is a means of socializing students into the logic of the present system, but it is also a means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

Paulo Freire, (1970)  Pedagogy of the Oppressed

 It is my belief that by their very nature people are curious, inquisitive, and make meaning in their world as they experience it. This axiom is consistent with the existential phenomenological and humanistic underpinnings of the MacEwan University Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.  The inquisitiveness and how people situate their knowledge is an integration of intelligence and wisdom (praxis). Intelligence is more than the mere acquisition of knowledge and students are more than mere empty vessels to be filled. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems and fashion solutions or products that are valued in more that one setting (Gardner & Hatch, 1989).  Gardner and Hatch (1989) have described seven forms of intelligence. These are: 1) logical-mathematical – related to inductive and deductive reasoning, and abstraction; 2) linguistic – related to spoken and written words with a sensitivity to the different functions of language; 3) musical/rhythmic – sensitivity to detect different patterns of tone and timbre (this form of intelligence is used in nursing when assessing chest sounds, heart sounds, bowels sounds, etc.); 4) spatial – ability to visualize the world or create internal mental images and transform media based on  one’s perception; 5) bodily-kinesthetic – process knowledge through bodily sensations or movement; 6) interpersonal – related to the ability to authentically respond to the Other; 7) intrapersonal – the capacity to utilize reflection and metacognition to guide behaviour. Embedded within nursing knowledge are all of the above forms of intelligence. As students intellectually evolve, and their nursing knowledge increases, they move through nonlinear and the nonstatic stages of dualism (black and white), multiplicity (diversity and tolerance), evidence-based knowledge (reasoned support guides decision-making), and embodied knowledge (recognition of the impact of the environment and the experiences/history of those involved on decision-making). As a faculty member, I see my role as collaborating with students and within that role I have a responsibility to challenge/encourage/channel them to advance their nursing knowledge in a reflective and intentional way.

As a result achieving educational goals related to the development of nursing knowledge (experiential, presentational, propositional, and practical) occurs within an environment that facilitates reciprocity between power, knowledge, and control. Students are encouraged to wonder, ask passionate scholarly questions, pursue individual interests, and to listen authentically to another’s story. Students’ have authority in creating their own experiences and knowledge that can be shared within a critical dialogue to develop deeper understandings.


 A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.

Marshal Mcluhan (1964) Understanding Media: Extensions of Man

 In 1987 Chickering and Gamson described the principles of good practice in undergraduate education. Although this source is dated, the principles have yet to be refuted. These principles include student-faculty contact, cooperation among students, active learning, prompt feedback, time on task, high expectations, and respect for diverse talents and ways of learning. These principles are provided as a backdrop to my pedagogical strategies. In describing my pedagogical beliefs that value the use of a transformative and caring pedagogy, I need to state clearly that I also respect the contributions that conventional/traditional or behavioural pedagogies have made to nursing education; which have also influenced the development of my vision and goals. In describing my teaching I have arranged the ideas in this document in three sections: Where I Was …, Where am I …, and Where I Hope to Be….

Where I Was … (Past Approaches to Nursing Education)

 All struggles against oppression in the modern world begin by redefining what had previously been considered private, non-public and non-political issues as matters of public concern, as issues of justice, as sites of power. 

Seyla Benhabib, (1992)  Situating the Self: Gender, Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics

 Nursing has been described as being engaged in a ‘false consciousness’, which lead to the devaluation of nursing knowledge and the privileging of a curative biomedical ideology (Hendricks-Thomas & Patterson, 1995).  “Nursing’s historical alignment and addiction to rule-driven practice, the popularity of nursing diagnosis, the attention given to competency-based education, and the dogma of prescriptive problem-solving … illustrate the limitations placed upon nursing development” (p. 594) which has resulted in nursing education being structured within a positivistic paradigm. The aforementioned quote illustrates the passion that the devaluation of nursing knowledge evoked in nurses.  Since I first graduated with a diploma in psychiatric nursing, nursing education has evolved and now many educators are using pedagogies that create a transformational learning and caring/humanistic curriculum that focuses on critical thinking, problem solving and learning rather than only on the content to be transmitted. This shift has also parallels the shift in my own personal beliefs from being so certain about so many things to now acknowledging and appreciating that life is complicated, ambiguous, and should be lived rather than planned.


 Where am I … (Pedagogical Vision)

 One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others. 

Simone de Beauvior, (1949)  The Second Sex

 Critical theory is an approach that can be used as a means of emancipation.  It is from this vantage point that I reflect upon my teaching philosophy, vision/goals and actions. It is also the means by which I try to determine what is the most fitting when I engage with and address the needs of the students.  This pedagogical basis is consistent with an existential-phenomenal and humanistic philosophy.  For example, I choose to be in collaborative relationships with the students as we become partners in the learning process. The means of establishing the reciprocity that is needed in a collaborative relationship is through making a choice about how power will be negotiated within a partnership that will encourage full participation by all the participants. Although there will inherently be a power differential between the students and the faculty because it is the faculty that has the responsibility to assign grades. However, to minimize the impact of this power differential the assessment, grading process and criteria can be as transparent as possible. Although grades are important, the student outcomes that are critically important to me include:  academic skills, the spirit of inquiry, inquisitiveness, curiosity, independent learning, humanistic values and an awareness of attitude, scholarly communication, informational literacy, adaptive learning, cooperative learning, and moral reasoning. In achieving these outcomes, I encourage students to become responsible and engaged learners as they focus on caring needs, relationships, dynamic processes, and the health and healing experience of the person.  In all the courses that I teach, activities that involve active reflection, values communication, effective interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills are utilized. When teaching these skills I incorporate ethics, philosophy and scientific knowledge of people and caring-healing practices, which form the disciplinary foundation for nursing. It is this nursing disciplinary foundation that provides the “moral and intellectual blueprint for education, practice, research, and leadership” (Hills & Watson, 2011, p. 11).

Where I Hope to Be … (Goals)

 The medium, or process, of our time – electric technology is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life.  It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing: you, your family, your education, your neighborhood, your job, your government, and your relation to others. And they’re changing dramatically.

  Marshall McLuhan, (1967)  The Medium is the Massage 

As I broadly reflect on my pedagogical activities and pursuits there are areas that I would like to develop further. I anticipate my pedagogical growth will involve participation in both individual and collaborative activities.

 Individual Activities

I will begin by first describing my individual activities. It has been suggested that student engagement has positive effects on problem solving and critical thinking (Popkess & McDaniel, 2011). Therefore, I would like to further develop my ability to meaningfully engage with students. In doing so, I have actively sought feedback from students and have made changes to classes based on their opinioins and suggestions. I anticipate that I will continue to use this as a strategy to engage students. However, as the process of growth is often are iterative in nature, I expect and look forward to future individual activities revealing themselves in interesting and diverse ways.

Collaborative Activities

My collaborative involvement has been primarily with the Self-Study Team. The Self-Study is not yet complete; therefore, my future collaborative activities will focus on fully engaging in the process of self-study. Although, in the following paragraph, I describe the goals and benefits of Self-Study, which have traditionally viewed within an organizational context, it is my belief that these goals are also individual goals and that the individual, as well as the organization, benefits from engaging in Self-Study.

MacEwan University delivers a rigorous curriculum designed to provide students with opportunities to acquire the skills and attributes needed to become a successful registered nurse. Valuing collaborative reflection and continued program evolution the leadership team of the BScN program has initiated a comprehensive evaluation process known as Self-Study.  A Self-Study Team comprised of BScN program leaders, BScN faculty, and representatives from the MacEwan University AQuAA team has been formed to facilitate the Self-Study process. The activities associated with the Self-study will result in an enhancement of pedagogical literacy within the BScN faculty, including increasing my own pedagogical and andragogical literacy. The primary goal of engaging in the Self-Study is to contribute to the provision of high quality and effective post-secondary educational services. There are several benefits to engaging in this process. These include, but are not limited to: improving internal communication and collaboration, demonstrating credibility and a commitment to the provision of quality services and being accountable for those services, the identification of areas that may require additional resources, and it enables an on-going process of self-analysis of pedagogical performance. The outcomes of this process may include, external stakeholders viewing the reputation of the BScN program positively, identification of the components of the BScN program that are working well, the facilitation of capacity building, professional development and organizational learning, establishing a team-building opportunity for faculty that will improve our understanding of the various facets of the program; thereby, strengthening faculty effectiveness, and the identification of how we all contribute to the overall success of the BScN program.

In summary, I would like to build additional capacity in the following areas: 1) teaching with conscious and deliberate intent, 2) trusting the pedagogical/andragogical process as an embodied way of knowing and learning, 3) focusing on the needs of the students, and 4) listening to/for the capacity of the students.

 Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.  

William Butler Yeats