HealthJanuary 18, 2017

Tips to succeed in nursing school: how to convince students to be engaged

*Note: This post is a second in a series. Click here to read the first post

In this blog, I will explore the popular challenge shared by educators, which is: How do I challenge the student expectation that because they are present in class, that I can magically teach them everything they need to know without them doing anything?

Are your learners doing the lap stare? (In this case assume they are looking at their cell phones, especially if they smile intermittently). Do your learners look at you as if they are deer in the headlights? These are obvious symptoms of unengaged learners.

It is a surprise to nursing and career students that to master the knowledge and skills of a professional, the way they act as learners must change from grade school, high school, and even college. Everything they learn during their time in the program will have to be remembered, incorporated and synthesized. Gone are the days of simply learning it to pass a test. Every day on the job they will be called to utilize everything they are learning. The only way to succeed in this new type of schooling is to change students’ behavior as learners.

Depending on the teacher, just getting the student through the course no longer works. Time, study and learner responsibility combined form the road to success. The active investment by each student directly correlates to his/her success in school. This is a lesson that some learn the hard way, or try to place blame on the teacher. It comes down to personal responsibility.

So how does one get this message across to the learners?

My friend, Betsy, begins her first class of a new term in this way: “Welcome to our fundamentals class. Many people ask how they can get an ‘A’ in this class. Here’s how.” She shows them a PowerPoint slide labeled, “The Top Ten Things Students Do Who Get A’s in This Class.” She then goes over the items, which include: attends all classes, studies each day, becomes a member of a study group, etc.

The next PowerPoint slide is labeled, “The Top Ten Things Students Do Who Get C’s in This Class.” She goes over the items, which include: attends minimum number of classes to pass, studies night before test only, etc. Her students are a bit surprised to see this list. But what really shocks everyone is the next slide.

It says, “The Top Ten Things Students Do Who Get F’s in This Class,” and “Are Asked To Leave The Program.” She goes over this list, which includes: no studying, cheating on tests, falsifying records, etc. These come directly from the student handbook and syllabus. Betsy then says: “Now you choose. Which will you be?” This makes it clear that each student now knows the expectation and is responsible for their grades based on the behaviors they demonstrate. The teacher is a partner in the learning, but not the one driving the bus. She then says, “Don’t come to me and say ‘you gave me an F.’ I won’t give you an F, you will choose an F by your behaviors.”

Do you have one or more students who could benefit from this activity? Might you try it with your next class? It is a lighthearted but crystal clear way to look set realistic expectations for the learners and for you right from the beginning.

In the next blog posting, I will share some ways to get your learners thinking critically.

Michele Deck presents nationally and internationally on innovative teaching methods in the field of health care education and training. She is co-founder and chief executive officer of G.A.M.E.S., a company that specializes in seminars on adult learning and interactive training methods, and Tool Thyme for Trainers, a company which supplies innovative and creative presentation tools for educators worldwide. Honors include ANPD’s prestigious Belinda E. Puetz Award, election to Sigma Theta Tau National Nursing Honor Society, Business Woman of the Year by the National Business Council, and Best Over All Trainer by Creative Training Techniques Companies. She serves on ANPD’s Education committee and was a member of the Editorial board of the Journal for 8 years.

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