Their purpose is to stand alone - untouched and sealed tightly - and hold the grain that will become seed for next year’s crop. This works well for farming, but unfortunately, faculty working in silos is not working as well in nursing education and should be avoided.
Merriam-Webster (2021) defines a silo as “an isolated grouping or department that functions apart from others especially in a way seen as hindering communication and cooperation.” Clark et al (2011) notes that lack of communication, collaboration, and mutual curriculum planning is considered incivility (ouch!). So, what do silos look like in nursing education?
Working in silos in nursing education can look like:
- planning your course outline alone
- not answering questions asked by other faculty about what is being taught in your course
- unwillingness to allow other faculty to attend your class
- changing your course outline without letting other faculty know
- creating rules about tests, test questions, class participation, etc., that applies to only your course
- not participating during faculty meetings when planning curricula.
The opportunity for collaborative planning
Students benefit when faculty work together to plan their courses. Constructivism is a learning theory that states that students learn by building on previous knowledge and is how adult learners learn. So, if in any given semester, faculty are all teaching about pain on the same week, for example, and know exactly what is being taught then students can build on the knowledge on Friday based on what they learned Monday in class.
This also works semester to semester. If in the first semester you are teaching about hypertension, then the next semester they can learn about complications of hypertension such as stroke or renal failure and it resonates with them as to why. The students know if the faculty are all working together or not. It’s very evident if two faculty are teaching the same thing or if one is teaching content that is very complex, and the students have nothing to attach it to.