Lisa Shustack, EdD., RN
Assistant Professor, Director of Undergraduate Nursing
Methods of teaching and assessment in nursing education are heavily focused on objective and standardized testing. However, it's also important to recognize different learning styles and the opportunity to teach with authentic, technology-rich projects. It’s time to consider what motivates faculty to try new classroom methods and incorporate technology in new ways.
Generation Z (those born between the early 1990s and 2000s) are familiar with and expect a classroom setting that is engaging, digital, and interactive. Project-based learning can help students develop creativity, research and information fluency, communication and collaboration skills, as well as many other important abilities required of Professional Nurses.
Where to Begin
If you have been looking for new classroom strategies that will allow you to move away from the lecture-testing model and fully engage your students in course content, then project-based learning may be right for you. Recognizing the influence of technology on the current generation of nursing students can be helpful as you attempt to reach your ambitious instructional goals. Nursing faculty of all ages, professional backgrounds, and technology experience can begin to transform their classroom while keeping the following in mind:
Today’s nursing students are ready for the change. The digital world already reaches every aspect of nursing student’s life. With that said, many nurse educators and schools of nursing have not kept pace with the learning opportunities that technology presents. Nursing education needs to avoid stagnation and embrace alternative teaching and learning methodologies. This way, we are not only preparing future nursing students to pass an examination, but rather creating well-rounded nurses who have excellent critical thinking, collaboration, and investigation skills.
Classroom projects are worth the effort. Although taking on a classroom project approach to teaching and learning may invoke apprehension in the beginning, most nurse faculty who create engaging classroom activities would agree that they feel a sense of rejuvenation following the experience. Not only will the students feel engaged in the course, faculty who have been teaching the same subject matter for a number of years may also feel a new enthusiasm and passion about teaching. While integrating project-based learning into a course requires time and lesson planning, the pay off at the end is definitely worth the effort.
Nursing students live and learn in the real world. Most nursing students will express their love of clinical learning since it mimics real-world experiences. Creating classroom projects that evoke real-world situations, people, or events can make the students’ learning more realistic and relatable, while stimulating deep learning of the content. Deep learning of the content helps to ensure that students will have long-term memory, rather than simply studying facts to regurgitate on a multiple-choice examination.
Project-based learning is not simply flipping the classroom
Project-based learning, powered by contemporary technologies, is a teaching-learning strategy that will certainly turn the traditional classroom upside down. Project-based learning allows students to learn by engaging in real-world scenarios after the nurse educator presents an overview of the content. Throughout the project, the nurse educator is responsible for doling out information in bite-sized pieces and learners pursue their own quest for additional information using technology to access information from unlimited sources.
In project-based learning, students investigate real-world problems related to the course content and apply their knowledge to produce authentic problem solutions. Projects typically allow for student choice, setting the stage for active learning and teamwork.
Project-based learning can rejuvenate your classroom
Rejuvenating your classroom with project-based learning does not mean discarding your traditional methods of teaching and assessment all together. Rather, it is recommended to build on positive aspects of your current class lesson plans and use project-based learning to enhance those areas that you feel need particular attention.
By maximizing digital tools to reach your essential learning goals, nurse educators can overcome the boundaries and limitations of trying to traditionally lecture in content-saturated courses. Technology can open new windows into student thinking and set the stage for more productive conversations on challenging topics.
Imagine the Possibilities
Good projects are focused on the most important learning objectives of the course. The more complex an idea, the better technology will serve its purpose. Identifying the big ideas of the subject matter you teach is the first step in project planning. Think for a moment: What is the most important take away you want students to have following your course?
Good projects connect directly to the students’ frames of reference, interests, and experiences. Projects that involve the community offer real-world learning opportunities that are invaluable. When students know that their work offers value for their community, they become even more invested in learning.
Where do project ideas come from? Nursing students.
Project-based learning encourages nursing students to use their creativity and familiarity with technology to develop and enhance their own style of learning. Encourage students to consider their day-to-day use of technology and how that technology can be utilized for the purpose of their project goals. Nurse educators are the content experts, but the nursing student is most likely the technology expert. Sharing with each other can create fantastic projects that serve the community, teach collaboration skills, and invigorate learning.
Steps for designing your project:
Identify the specific learning objective the project should accomplish. This one “big picture” learning goal should be clearly shared with students at the start of the project. Continue to refer to the “big picture” throughout the project in order to keep projects on track.
Decide on the skills you want the technology to enhance: creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, research, information literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, or decision making.
Identify learning dispositions you want to foster, such as persistence and reflection.
Establish evidence of content learning. What do you want the student to know or be able to do at the conclusion of the project? Develop a grading rubric. The grading rubric should be shared with students at the start of the project.
Group students together and encourage brainstorming. Provide them the opportunity to use creativity, problem solving, communication and collaboration skills to develop their own technology driven project.
It's time to rejuvenate your classroom!
With practice, engaging in project work helps teachers and students develop new ways of working together and incorporating new ideas. Over time, your students will get better at working as a team, managing deadlines, resolving conflicts, and investigating their own questions. As a nurse educator, you will become better at facilitating their success. Imagine all of the learning opportunities that could unfold for your students!
Don’t worry if your students’ project ideas veer into unfamiliar technology territory or require you to learn new skills or master unfamiliar content. This is your opportunity to collaborate with colleagues and engage experts, just as you will be asking your students to do. Once a well-designed project is underway, you become part of the learning community.
Explore on nurse educators, explore on!