Making it through nursing Combining theories to make my own path.

When I was at a young age my Mother, now a retired Calculus teacher, knew I was going to be slightly different then her two older sons. I recall her always telling me that no matter what tricks or ideas she would came up with to help my brothers, would never work on me. I was always asking how and why things were proven rather than accepting the facts. By pushing limits, exploring other perspectives, and gathering my own beliefs I have developed my own pathways to knowledge and growth in my education. Starting from this early stage in my life, it was apparent that I would need to utilize a multitude of approaches to solidify the growth and development of my knowledge. These approaches changed and developed over time and were made more concrete while in nursing school.

Behaviorism

“A theory of learning that implies the environment external to the learner is the only factor to consider in learning situations” (Mastrian et al., 2010, p. 77).

“The behavioral approach of ‘modelling’, introduced by Bandura in the 1940s lent to the basis that people learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors” (Nalliah & Idris, 2014, p. 51).

Mastrian et al., 2010, stated “the behavioral instructional model focuses on what the learner should be able to do when the instruction is concluded” and is often focused towards learning goals and objectives (p. 77).

I often feel as if this is how we were brought through the first semesters of nursing school. Learning how to perform tasks, i.e. assessing vital signs, proper transferring techniques, and even the basic anatomy of the body, while the professors for molding the students with their knowledge.

Cognitivism

Believes that people are rational and capable to adapt and learn by creating their own thoughts and ideas and require active participation in order to learn and develop. Instead of acquiring habits, learners develop plans and strategies. (Mastrian et al., 2010, p. 78).

“Two key assumptions underlie this cognitive approach: that the memory system is an active organized processor of information and that prior knowledge plays an important role in learning” (Nalliah & Idris, 2014, p. 52).

Cognitivism “looks beyond behavior to consider how human memory works to promote learning, and an understanding of short term (working) memory and long term memory are important to educators influenced by the cognitive theory” (Nalliah & Idris, 2014, p. 53).

The theory of cognitivism would relate to the third and fourth year of nursing school. Students are provided with a wealth of knowledge and are expected to absorb and lock that into their long term memories, even though most of it is processed to short term. With this wide variety of knowledge, nursing students are required to pass national standards.

Constructivism

Dennick, 2016, states that constructivism is “based on the premise that the act of learning is based on a process which connects new knowledge to pre-existing knowledge” (p. 200).

This theory, developed by Piaget, stressed that “experience is constantly being ‘assimilated; or filtered through pre-existing concepts. New knowledge is therefore interpreted by existing knowledge and then connected to existing knowledge” (Dennick, 2016, p. 200).

Piaget believed that learning was primarily about interacting with the world in order to explore the meaning of life and to discover the causal relationships between events (Dennick, 2016, p. 201).

Dennick, 2016, summarized that the constructivism model is “built on the premise that the brain naturally attempts to extract meaning from the world by interpreting experience through existing knowledge and then building and elaborating new knowledge in a process identical to hypothetico-deductive reasoning or the scientific method.”

This occurs during the first years of nursing, when nurses are acting as independent caregivers. Knowledge has already been taught but more exposure to real-life situations creates a parallel between experience and knowledge forming new knowledge. Thus, the nurse is able to create a stronger understanding of the situation.

Connectivism

While describing the principles of connectivism, Siemens, 2005, states that learning can occur in any type of environment and that “learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing”.

Learning through connecting specialized sources, human and non-human, to facilitate continual development of knowledge (Siemens, 2005).

Being able to access and obtain what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possess (Siemens, 2005).

This is how I have worked through the RN-BSN degree. Utilizing the knowledge and work of many to assist with the growth of my knowledge. The way I develop my posts and projects is through the use of connecting the many resources I have available.

Conclusion

Developing the utilization of different learning theories does not occur over night. It takes completion of many stages of development to be able to reflect on one’s own knowledge and to be capable of discussing psychological provoked theories appropriately. Everyone starts learning via behaviorism, i.e. child mimicking parents, and slowly develops over time. I feel as if I have utilized all of the theories at one point in time in my educational career. Being well rounding and having the abilities to adapt between learning or teaching methods is what has helped make my studies enjoyable. I think by connecting pre-existing knowledge with new experiences expands my intellectual capabilities as a student and a nurse, which furthers my understand of certain concepts. Today, having the ability collect substantial knowledge in a central database and allowing access to the mass population is the ultimate goal for developing the future of my education. I believe Siemens, 2005, stated it best by writing, “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today”.

Reference:

Dennick, R. (2016). Constructivism: reflections on twenty-five years teaching the constructivist approach in medical education. International Journal of Medical Education, 7, 200–205. http://doi.org.proxy.libraries.uc.edu/10.5116/ijme.5763.de11

Mastrian, K., McGonigle, D., and Mahan, W. L. (2010). Integrating Technology in Nursing Education: Tools for the Knowledge Era. Sudbury, MA, USA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Nalliah, S., & Idris, N. (2014). Applying the learning theories to medical education: A commentary. International E-Journal Of Science, Medicine & Education, 8(1), 50-57.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning. 2(1).

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Kirk Miller
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