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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Why a Collaborative Teaching Approach Should Be the New Nursing Education Paradigm

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Jennifer M. Threatt, Sarah Minton, Allison Keleske, & Gina Diaz
March 21, 2022

With the demand for nurses continuing to increase, and the online learning environment offering more flexibility and convenience than the traditional educational model, online nursing programs are becoming more prevalent in the nursing education sector (Williams-Tracy, 2020.) COVID-19 has forced higher education institutions to be innovative, delivering efficient and effective nursing education in virtual and simulated atmospheres. To accommodate this online learning platform, nursing educators have also developed creative teaching approaches to promote lifelong learning, confidence and critical thinking to engage the influx of students with alternative and flexible learning options. The evolution of higher learning education has led to the online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) becoming more relevant as an alternative educational option that accommodates working students by mixing virtual education (theory and simulated learning) and in-person education (clinical learning.)

Collaborative teaching, or team teaching, is not a common practice in higher education; however, this teaching approach provides a wonderful opportunity to allow students to observe collaboration and teamwork amongst colleagues as they pursue an ADN. A collaborative teaching approach, using the flipped classroom model, promotes critical thinking, student engagement and active learning for both students and faculty alike. This teaching paradigm allows nursing educators from different clinical experiences to bridge the gap between theory and practice employing real-world experiences, multiple points of view, professional knowledge and clinical expertise, while ensuring that the content delivery is clear, concise and matches the intended learning outcomes.

Collaborative teaching creates an atmosphere where the educators trust their faculty team and are responsive to teaching styles and techniques. This open communication allows them to create an engaging dialogue that provides continuous learning, where they feel valued and supported by their colleagues. Ultimately, this helps promote student engagement, knowledge, application of information and critical thinking, while fostering a positive work environment. Collaborative teaching additionally allows the lecturer to deliver information to students based on their strengths and experiences, providing rich content and deliverables to the students by modeling multidisciplinary teamwork amongst colleagues.

Collaborative teaching in higher education can benefit both students and nursing faculty tremendously. This collaborative method may increase student cohort sizes, therefore increasing the number of students accepted into nursing programs, as the percentage of applicants not accepted into nursing programs is directly correlated to a lack of nursing faculty. In a time where nurses and nursing educators are facing a shortage, it is imperative to re-examine the educational model to ensure both students and faculty are benefiting highly from educational platforms.

Many variables affect the enticement and retainment of nursing educators. Creating an educational culture that fosters interprofessional and collaborative practices may not only bolster faculty retention, but also foster a healthy work/life balance while facilitating the demand to educate more students with fewer faculty members. Additionally, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, nursing students need to be educated on the current health population, as it is becoming increasingly more diversified in its needs, experience and education levels, while also adapting to an advance in technology and policy changes. Nursing students need to be given the tools to collaborate and lead as professionals in nursing to ensure a high level of care. With a collaborative teaching approach amongst nursing faculty, faculty may experience greater satisfaction with their teaching responsibilities and institutions, while also benefiting the nursing students by modeling skills of teamwork, and highlighting the importance of individual experiences.

There are many roles that faculty need to fulfill in an online learning environment to promote student success. With a collaborative approach, these roles can be divided. This creates a more individualized student experience, while ensuring the content is delivered clearly and effectively. This also enables educators to conduct a scan of the class environment in real-time, allowing the instructors to alter their teaching styles to increase students’ responsiveness and engagement during their lectures.

A collaborative teaching approach allows the team to change who teaches the live class discussion based on: 1) educational knowledge of the content, 2) personal and/or nursing experience on the content; and 3) ability to teach and engage with their nursing students confidentially and effectively. This innovative team approach allows other instructors to add their educational techniques and creative application of the learned material, provide additional supplemental learning tools and offer continuous support to students. Collaborative teaching also allows students to have access to a professor who can answer questions in a timely manner. By providing such one-on-one attention, students are provided with a more cultivating and nurturing learning atmosphere, in what is typically a large and isolating online classroom environment. This collaborative teaching style would be ideal in courses with at least a 1:45 faculty to student ratio.

Collaborative teaching is a beneficial and unique approach to educating students. This allows educators to work in a team environment, promote professional critical thinking and illustrate professional development. Collaborative teaching creates a strong space to guide learning, using multiple rich perspectives that complement the teaching of the nursing content. With this, faculty feel supported, heard and can receive real-time feedback, while also having the opportunity to learn from colleagues’ teaching methods and experiences. This teamwork, united front approach can prevent individual nursing faculty burnout and stress. Lastly, collaborative teaching creates an overall positive work experience and environment for both the faculty and their students.

Author: Dr. Jennifer M. Threatt earned her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing education; She can be reached at [email protected]

Author: Dr. Sarah Minton earned her Doctorate of Nursing (DNP) She can be reached at [email protected]

Author: Dr. Allison Keleske earned her Doctorate of Nursing (DNP). She can be reached at [email protected]

Author: Gina Diaz, PPCNP-BC, APRN She can be reached at [email protected]

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