Moving Beyond Facts: It Is Time to Rethink the Practice of Teaching : Nursing Education Perspectives

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DEPARTMENTS: From the Editor

Moving Beyond Facts: It Is Time to Rethink the Practice of Teaching

Patterson, Barbara J.; Forneris, Susan Gross

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Nursing Education Perspectives 44(3):p 139, 5/6 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000001133
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As we strive to educate the future nursing workforce, the discipline of nursing is obligated to reexamine how we prepare nurse educators. Nurse educators today must reach contemporary learners and transition them into a professional role that navigates a very complex and diverse health care system. We can no longer afford to move along our current, outdated teaching trajectory with nursing students, regardless of where they are on their educational journeys.

Many educators, concerned with the state of the nursing profession and higher education, have long focused on improving their teaching. For more than a decade, we have identified the role of the nurse educator as guide by the side, as opposed to sage on the stage. Now, we say that our mission is to teach learners to think like a nurse. However, some still find it difficult to stray too far from PowerPoint outlines that replicate what is already in textbooks. Lectures and PowerPoint outlines do have value in specific limited circumstances, but the outcomes are often merely content delivery.

Various teaching strategies, such as gaming, have been interjected into teaching practices as approaches to engage students and enable learning. However, learning outcomes and practice performance are not where they need to be in terms of competence, and educators are often at a loss to explain why students do not understand concepts, despite their efforts at trying new teaching approaches. Teaching that only delivers content will not sustain long-term learning. Our health care systems are undeniably too complex for the mere memorization of content. Nurses must use content and be able to provide rationales for the actions they take, driven by how content is interpreted in the context of the care situation. With our current emphasis on concept-based curricula and competency-based education, the preparation and development of educators to move beyond teaching facts is paramount. It is the role of the educator to provide multiple opportunities for learners to rehearse the use of content within context and discuss their thinking and rationales.

Unfortunately, we are leaving nurse educators behind in the shift from delivering content to using content. There continue to be policies recommending that preparation as an educator be an add-on to the nurse’s advanced degree(s). We suggest that our educators are expert clinicians but are not automatically expert teachers, and they need pedagogical preparation and ongoing professional development. There is evidence to support this. We must shift our perspective to one with a focus on educator preparation, or faculty will continue to teach the way they were taught, and students will continue to focus on memorizing surface content and struggle to think like a nurse.

There is a plethora of literature on the challenges expert clinicians face in the transition to academia. Mentoring and orientation programs designed for new faculty often include content on teaching theory, strategies, learner assessment, scholarship, and service, with specific educator preparation strategies for acquiring pedagogical content knowledge (Crider, 2022). However, there is limited description on how these programs/workshops are delivered to educators. Pedagogical knowledge and content are important, but developing nurse educators who can teach learners how to use nursing knowledge requires more than the delivery of content. Like nursing students, educators must also be given multiple opportunities to use their pedagogical content knowledge. Educators must experience learning and move from a lens of teaching to a lens of learning.

In a recent article, “Faculty as Learner: Neuroscience in Action” (Patterson & Forneris, in press), we report on a qualitative descriptive study with 16 participants who completed a 10-week intensive faculty development course with a focus on contemporary teaching grounded in neuroscience principles. The intensive course was intentionally designed for participants to experience neuroscience concepts and strategies (i.e., metacognition, desirable difficulty, and retrieval practices) while engaged in learning about them. As faculty learners, focused on learning the content of neuroscience concepts, participants experienced an important shift in how they understood their role. The study findings 1) support the need to prepare educators to use brain-based teaching strategies in the classroom and 2) highlight how faculty can reframe the teaching-learning process and move away from a sole focus on content delivery.

It is imperative that faculty development efforts be reexamined; simply providing pedagogical content is not sufficient. The nurse educator competency in the pursuit of continuous quality improvement in the nurse educator role acknowledges the value of lifelong learning. Faculty development must be intentional, with a clear commitment to faculty across their professional careers (Young-Brice et al., 2022). Investment in the preparation and development of nurse educators, both financial and in time, is the ethically right approach for all constituents: educators, administrators, students, and the global community.


Crider C. (2022). Pedagogical content knowledge for nurse educators: An intersection of disciplines. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 17(4), 449–454. 10.1016/j.teln.2022.01.001
Patterson B., Forneris S. G. (in press). Faculty as learner: Neuroscience in action. Journal of Nursing Education.
Young-Brice A., Farrar-Stern K., Malin M. (2022). Comprehensive onboarding and orientation to support newly hired faculty in a nursing program. Nurse Educator, 47(6), 347–351. 10.1097/NNE.0000000000001242
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