• Enhancing Critical Thinking for Students in the Undergraduate Bachelor Program

      Melchior, Lynne; Evans, Jennifer; Doerner, Mary
      Focus/Problem State: Critical thinking for nurses involves the ability to logically connect ideas and evaluate evidence to systematically identify irregularities and problem solve to support optimal patient outcomes. These skills are often difficult for the novice nursing student to obtain. Critical thinking requires students to use the information they have previously learned and connect to relevant patient scenarios.  The inability to do this, may hinder the student’s progression in the nursing curriculum. Promoting critical thinking skills involves faculty to employ teaching strategies requiring students to be actively engaged and involved in decision making. Context: Analysis of the early undergraduate medical/surgical nursing courses, revealed a need to improve teaching strategies than would enhance the development of appropriate critical thinking skills. The extensive amount of content delivered in an eight week course limited students' ability to develop strong critical thinking skills. Students reported some content was difficult to apply in clinical scenarios, which hindered their ability to critically think through those particular exam questions. The revelation of a knowledge deficit regarding appropriate study habits and test taking skills reinforced the need for more active learning strategies to be demonstrated within the classroom. Approach: Three nursing course coordinators strategized on how to incorporate multimodal learning styles into the classroom setting to enhance critical thinking skills. Using the Constructivism Theory faculty developed active learning experiences allowing students to connect course content to clinical scenarios. Examples included concept mapping to deliver class content and enhance critical thinking. Another strategy was a kinesthetic activity engaging students in hypothetical urgent situation requiring them to respond and problem solve to ensure “patient” safety. This modality allowed the learners to analyze their knowledge and apply it to the experience/scenario.  Building upon these activities, a Venn diagram was utilized to reflect the similarities between the two types of diabetes, and differentiate the pathophysiological processes.  Reflection/Discussion: Utilizing different teaching methods within the classroom setting has fostered the development of students’ critical thinking skills. In addition, it was fascinating to see the students "become a nurse" during the kinesthetic activity. During the kinesthetic debriefing students realized how much they knew and were able to unknowingly apply in the scenario. Reflecting on these strategies, faculty recognized a need to continue and further develop methods actively engaging students in the classroom promoting critical thinking.