Analyzing the Teaching Style of Nursing Faculty: Does It Promote a Student-Centered or Teacher-Centered Learning Environment?

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ABSTRACT The purposes of this study were to a) describe the predominant teaching style of a group of nursing faculty members, either as teacher centered or student centered, and b) to compare teaching style to the instructional methods the faculty members used in the courses they taught and to their stated philosophies of teaching/learning. Findings indicate that the participants were more teacher centered than student centered; their written philosophies supported the teacher-centered approach. However, evidence that faculty used student-centered language, often in a teacher-centered context, indicates that participants in the study may recognize the need for a student-centered environment but may have difficulty with implementation. Recommendations for faculty members and administrators are offered.

KeyWords Preferred Learning Environment - Principals of Adult Learning Scale - Student-Centered Learning Environment - Teaching Style Teaching Philosophy - Teacher-Centered Learning Environment

Despite the teacher's integral role in the creation of an environment conducive to the development of critical thinking (1,2), there has been no focus in nursing education research on how the teaching styles of faculty relate to the creation of learning environments supportive of critical thinking. Published research on critical thinking in nursing has largely focused on the measurement of student outcomes (3,4) and specific teaching strategies (5,6). The current study has a twofold purpose: 1) to describe the predominant teaching style of nursing faculty as either teacher centered or student centered, and 2) to compare teaching style to instructional methods faculty members used in courses they taught and to their stated philosophies of teaching and learning.

There is a movement in nursing today away "from the doing of nursing towards the thinking behind the doing" (7, p. 388). Critical thinking, identified as an essential behavior required of new nurses by employers (8), fosters the transition from "doing" to "thinking" and is a significant determinant of the professional role. Many new nurses are unable to distinguish their responsibilities from those of ancillary staff (9,10). It is imperative that strategies be explored that foster the development of critical thinking in nursing students.

The preparation of graduates who possess the ability to think critically requires a culture where intellectual challenge and debate are encouraged (11). This study is guided by the premise that student-centered teaching styles foster independence in learning, creative problem-solving skills, a commitment to lifelong learning, and critical thinking.

Supporting Framework Teachers' views on learning and their approaches to teaching create the learning environment. The learning environment will be affected by any number of changes (12), including the amount of direction the teacher gives, opportunities for experiential learning, variations in quantity and quality of content, and the amount of interaction that takes place in the classroom. The willingness and ability to alter any one of these variables is a reflection of the instructor's values and beliefs concerning teaching and learning (13).

Teacher-centered styles, dominant in North America (14), promote dependent learning. The student is a passive recipient of information, and learning is described as taking place if a change in behavior is evident. Generally, there is a preference for formal testing over informal evaluation techniques, tight control in the classroom, and the use of one predominant teaching method. This teaching style is commonly demonstrated by nurse educators who try to teach too much content in too short a period of lime (7). It is of continuing significance because of the tendency for faculty to develop teaching styles based on their own student experiences (15).

With student-centered learning, the focus is on the needs of the student rather than on the knowledge to be transmitted (1,14,16). …