3 Reflective Teaching Techniques to Enhance Nursing Education

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In nursing, competence and compassion go hand in hand, and reflection can help to cultivate both. As healthcare providers strive to create care experiences centered on the people whose health is in the balance, training nurses to reflect on their experiences is one way to help them learn to optimally care for other people.

Bridging theory and practice through reflective teaching can help transform nursing education and prepare nursing students to provide compassionate and competent patient care in an evolving healthcare landscape, according to a 2017 paper titled “Supporting Faculty During Pedagogical Change Through Reflective Teaching Practice: An Innovative Approach,” by Assistant Professor Deborah K. Armstrong, Ph.D., RN, and Associate Professor Marilyn E. Asselin, Ph.D., RN-BC, both with the University of Massachusetts’ Dartmouth College of Nursing.

While implementing these techniques can help faculty members identify key strengths and areas of improvement in their approaches to teaching, it can be often be challenging to get started.  “Reflection is hard work,” says Natius Oelofsen, a chartered psychologist and Director of The Psychology Consultancy in Ipswich, England, who is the author of “Developing Reflective Practice: A Guide for Students and Practitioners of Health and Social Care.” “Everyone is too busy and there are always plenty of reasons not to do, until we do — and then we might be astonished by the results.”

Here are three reflective teaching techniques they highlight to help improve nursing education and student performance.

Question Cues

Evaluating and examining interactions and experiences are hallmarks of reflective teaching. Nurse educators can use question cues that progress from probing tactical teaching methods and strategies, to fostering reflection on the self as teacher, to yielding insights to help improve teaching and learning. These structured question cues, which guide faculty from lower to higher levels of reflection, aid in identifying insights — including technical aspects and factors that can help nurse educators improve their future teaching practice.

Group Reflection

Peer group reflection and discussion is another way to foster insight into what nurse educators think about teaching and the actions they take in the classroom. Creating a confidential and respectful environment for peer reflection and review gives faculty an opportunity to consider their own willingness to look closely at what they bring to the classroom. In addition to fostering healthy self-examination, group reflection provides the opportunity for increased collaboration, connection and trust by bringing peers together to reflect and share experiences confidentially.

Private Narratives

Documenting experiences and reflections is an important way to glean insights into thoughts and feelings that surface from question cues and peer-to-peer work. From logistics like the timing of specific classroom materials and activities, to student engagement, to problems and potential solutions, journaling can help educators find meaning and learn from classroom experiences, particularly as they they look ahead and prepare to teach future courses.

Reflective practice integrates professional knowledge with the personal impact that nursing work has while also enhancing a teacher’s understanding of how students learn, Oelofsen says. Students also can better identify key learnings and learn new ways to approach situations, says Lizzie Ette, a lecturer in nursing with the University of Hull’s School of Health and Social Work in England. “This in turn exposes them to a wider repertoire of responses for use in future clinical situations.”

Incorporating these techniques into your work takes effort, but the payoff can be huge. Remaining connected with personal values may keep educators and the nurses of tomorrow more engaged in their teaching and nursing practices, and help them sharpen their skills, retain their passion, adapt their behaviors and grow throughout their experiences of caring for patients.

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