On Course Strategy

On the first day of each learning plan in class, provide students with a list of topics/key words to know (or assign ahead of class time). In my case it was medication information for nursing pharmacology. Have students start with different sets of meds so they are not all working on the same. Have half the class be an Eagle, the other half Hawks. Pair students up into an Eagle-Hawk team. Continue reading

Are you having a ball in class?

Do you teach a class or lab where student get a break?  I have found that very few students interacted with each other during break.  Instead I observed most were checking their phones or texting.  I wanted to encourage more interaction betwball tosseen classmates and less phone and computer time.  So I decided to bring in 3 cloth “soft” footballs for the students to toss to each other.  I announced to students that they could toss balls to each other only during break and only in my classroom.  After a week, most students were tossing the balls to each other and even some students were coming to class early just to “play catch”.  I have recently added an indoor corn toss game which is also very popular. As a result I have seen increased interaction between students and they seem more motivated to come to class and participate.

MANIC Online Discussions

I recently read an interesting article that described an instructional technique used to improve online discussions.  In the article, “Facilitating Online Discussions at a MANIC Pace: A New Strategy for an Old Problem”, authors Curry and Cook review research from past educators and identify pros and cons to online discussions.  The authors reveal a new strategy, called MANIC, that can be used by educators to facilitate quality online discussions.  Continue reading

Tell me what this “pill” is…………………………….

Introduction to Clinical Practice is the first nursing clinical that students will encounter in either the Practical or Associate Degree Nursing programs.  The setting for this clinical is the long-term care environment and often where students will encounter clients who may take a numerous amount of medications.  Nursing Pharmacology is taught in the first semester as well—–students will start with pharmacology and then move in to clinical once they have some information under their belts.  As instructors, we strive to bring the “classroom into the clinical”!  Last semester, I had the pleasure of taking over a Pharmacology classroom for a colleague while teaching the clinical associated with the pharmacology class.  LIGHTS BULBS WENT OFF! I knew students were struggling with pharmacology in the clinical setting as well as the classroom setting; how could I remedy this?  Well, let me tell you what I did!

While watching “Maleficent”, I decided to get my scrapbooking material out.  I had BRIGHT colored paper, my circle cutters, AND GLITTER GLUE!  Shiny object syndrome was in full affect for me.  I tend to recall things better with color and shininess (is that a word?), so maybe my students would too!  I began cutting multiple circles of many many different bright colors.  I grabbed my marker and started writing medication names on those circles.  Before I knew it, the glitter glue was on those circles as I traced the medication names with the glitter glue and my table was FULL of “pills”.  Once they dried, I punched holes in the top and put a ring through them.  I now had a “wheel of pills”.  So you are probably wondering, “what in the world are you going to do with those things?”  Well, let me tell you………………………………….

I carried this “wheel of pills” in my scrub pockets at clinical.  Randomly throughout clinical, I would pull out the “Wheel of pills”, approach a student and ask them to “pick a pill”.  I would then proceed to ask them to tell me what the medication was and what they know about that medication.  At first, students were panicked.  HOWEVER, eventually, the students started asking me to pull the “Wheel of pills” out and to ask them questions.  Towards the end of clinical near the end of the semester with a Pharmacology FINAL exam looming over them, students would play games with the “Wheel of Pills”.  It was great to see them accept this strategy so readily as was watching them bring that classroom learning into clinical AND clinical learning into the classroom!  It has been a HUGE success and I will for sure continue with it!

Nursing Skills….. “I learned that such a long time ago that I don’t remember what to do”

How often have you said to your students, “don’t just memorize this, but learn it for life”?  I know that I say it almost every day, but does it really stick?  I can honestly answer that.  Teaching throughout both the Practical Nursing and Associate Degree Nursing programs from start to finish, the answer to that is NO!!!!!!!  Well, alright, we always have SOME students who do commit their skills to memory and never forget what step comes when; but, we also have those students who memorize the check off list and forget it the minute the check off is complete.  How can we get our students to understand that we really are speaking the truth?  How could I, the instructor, assist my students in reviewing their skills and truly understanding what the steps are?  And more importantly, why is it important for them to remember their skills steps?  Well, let me tell you!

After my students take their State Board exam for nursing(NCLEX), I often follow up with them and ask questions as to how the Boards went.  I ask questions that are very detailed oriented:  what kind of questions did you have, how many were “select all that apply”, how many of each type/area of nursing(pharmacology, Med/Surg, Mental Health, OB, Fundamentals, Math, etc). and so on.  I believe this helps me to develop new activities that will prep my students for the biggest exam of their lives and familiarize themselves with what to expect.  Imagine my surprise this year, when I learned that the NCLEX exam had several of my students put nursing skills in the correct order of performance!  Immediately, I knew exactly what I was going to do to assist my students to be successful in this area!  Basic Nursing Skills is taught in the first semester of both programs and I teach the clinical that is associated with that class: Introduction to Clinical Practice.  This clinical is taught in the long-term care environment.  There are times that this clinical has some “down-time” and I knew this activity would be perfect to complete at this level!  I have taken the Basic Nursing Skills check off lists, cut out each individual step and placed them on flashcards.  During clinical, I will randomly give a student a set of flashcards with the directions to place them in correct chronological order!  What an amazing opportunity to take the classroom learning and apply it to the real-life clinical setting; in the words of a wise Nurse Educator, “This is where the rubber meets the road”!  I cannot wait to try this during the semester. Completing this teaching strategy will allow me to assist my students in being successful.  Repeatedly exposing them to the nursing skills will allow them to commit these important tasks to memory and help them to be prepared for their NCLEX exam!  Stay tuned for the results!

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Beyond Memorization – Supporting First-Year Student Success

Do your first-year students struggle to move beyond memorization and thinking to learning and applying?  You can support your first-year students with methods and practices that will improve their abilities to problem solve, analyze, and draw conclusions.

Your practices within and outside the classroom are critical for enabling your first-year students to successfully transition into higher learning.  As you prepare to teach your next first-year course, consider these ideas:

  • Active Classroom Learning – First-year students need plenty of hands-on practice applying concepts.  Keep lecture time short, and intersperse activities that give students the opportunity to make use of higher level reasoning and problem solving.
  • In-Class Reviews – Because first-year students may lack study skills, it is beneficial to help them develop these skills for test preparation.  A thoughtfully created review that encourages problem solving and analytical skills can be completed in class to ensure students are effectively working through the study process.
  • Classroom Office Hours – Students may be hesitant to make use of instructor office hours, especially those in first-year courses.  Make it easy for them to access you outside of class time by moving your office hours to a classroom setting.  In addition to breaking down barriers for approachability, this also allows you to serve groups of students more easily.
  • Service Learning – Service learning offers the opportunity for students to simultaneously serve the community, gain career skills, and earn course credit.  Accounting students taking the Computerized Tax class participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) service learning project, in which they provide basic tax preparation services to low- and moderate-income households.  This is a great way for students to gain real-world experience, apply concepts, and meet a community need.

These ideas will help you transform your first-year students’ habits and thinking into skills that promote higher learning.