Friday, August 26, 2011

Academic Writing in Nursing Education


Situation: Despite the increased priority being given to academic writing skills in nursing education, graduating students are still failing to meet required proficiencies.

Background:  NurseAcademia has vested interest in writing in nursing and its relation to nursing scholarship. Faculty continually struggle trying to balance curriculum with available time and resources on skill development with theoretical foundations. Trends in nursing stem from developed skill sets that are continually being supported by growing evidence based research. Meanwhile, nursing "roots" were founded in the development of nursing theories guiding standards for decades. Therefore, academic writing is a critical necessity enabling graduates to forge the future of nursing.

The authors also provided a contextual background about the recent history of nursing in Europe. "Pity the poor nursing student, who is required to write at times like a sociologist, at others like a philosopher, yet again like a scientist and finally as a reflective practitioner!"

Abstract: Although academic skills, conceptualised as writing and critical thinking, are a vital part of university studies, research indicates that many students leave without having mastered these skills effectively. This research also reflects on nursing students. Nursing could also be said to be hampered by a number of complex educational challenges that are likely to impact on the academic socialisation process in general. These challenges include being a relatively ‘young’ academic discipline, the ‘theory–practice’ divide, a knowledge bed lying on a complex intersection of two ‘antithetical sciences’ and, at least in the Scandinavian countries, an increasing number of nurse educators with a PhD in nursing science but with limited time to develop their own teaching skills. In combination, these challenges have the potential to act as stumbling blocks, both from a teaching and learning perspective. I would suggest that a departure in teaching from theoretical educational models, such as Lea and Street's ‘academic literacies model,’ including skills, socialisation and academic literacy models simultaneously, could be one of several ways forward to create a learning environment that takes these issues into account.

Review: Authors present definitions of academic writing and critical thinking as well as an overview of 'Academic Literacies Model'. See summary below.

Academic Writing
  • Higher literacy level, critical, and analytic competencies
  • Writing convention within discipline standards
  • Demonstrates scholarship
  • Intrinsic value as an academic activity
Critical Thinking
  • Essential activity in clinical nursing practice
  • Differentiated from critical appraisal skills
  • Logical and consistent thinking 
  • Controlled sense of skepticism or disbelief about assertions and conclusions
  • identifying holes and weaknesses in existing information
  • Freedom from bias and prejudice
Academic Literacies Model
  • Developed by Lea and Street (2006)
  • Blends study skills, academic socialization, and academic literacy models
  • De-mystifies writing within subject area of nursing
  • Helps to identify which of essay, presentation, report, note styles are best
The suggestions made by the authors to utilize educational theories that are both innovative and not always necessarily derived from within the nursing education box. Additionally, nursing literature needs to give more attention to academic writing as no such other studies exist (as claimed by the author). 

Article Reference

Borglin, G., Promoting critical thinking and academic writing skills in nurse education, Nurse Educ. Today (2011), doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2011.06.009 PMID: 21807442