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One Instructor’s Success with Active Learning

About ten years ago after her nursing students scored below the desired level on their first exam and struggled to identify critical content from assigned readings and in-class case work, Barbara Yoost decided she needed to change things up. Abandoning her previous lecture-driven model, Yoost tried out a more student-centered approach for her next lesson.

She divided the class into dyads and assigned each dyad the responsibility of writing five original NCLEX-style review questions based on one concept that they would be exploring in class. Then later, when discussing the specific concept in class, each student dyad presented their questions, allowed classmates to discuss and choose a response, and then shared the answer and rationales for both the correct and incorrect responses.

What Yoost observed during this process was that her students were actively engaged throughout the entire lesson. They began to realize how to identify the key aspects of a topic and which questions were relevant. Researching viable incorrect responses in order to write their questions and appropriately respond to their classmates helped students delve more deeply into class topics. Students shared their reference sources, including page numbers in some cases, with classmates for further investigation.

Yoost’s students walked away with not only a better understanding of the nursing concept that was discussed that day, they also realized the depth of knowledge that was required to write NCLEX-style questions and answer options.

Since then, Yoost has been incorporating active learning in her classrooms — combining interactive “lecture”, conceptual care mapping, concept mapping, medication inquiry, and original student-developed case study work — and has received excellent student feedback.

“Students actually prepare more prior to class because they have to,” Yoost explains. “They begin to realize that the responsibility for learning information and applying it to clinical situations is theirs, not mine.”

Yoost adds that while she provides her students with slides online prior to class, she does not need to pull them up for reference during most classes. “If I want to make sure students understand the important concepts, I conduct a guided discussion and have students draw connections (sometimes literally) with patient care experiences to demonstrate the application of material to real life nursing.”

Overall, Yoost reports that a more “active” instructional strategy helps teach her students how to “think” which results in “greater personal confidence, improved clinical judgment, and better testing outcomes.”

To learn more about flipping the classroom and active learning click here.