Educational Philosophy and Learning Theory Applied

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Educational Philosophy and Learning Theory Applied
to Nursing Education and Practice
Kelly Thier
Alvernia University

According to Bill Beattie, “The aim of education should be to teach us how to think, rather than what to think… so as to enable us to think for ourselves…” I believe that the purpose of education is to allow a person to develop the skills to enable them to think independently and effectively. However, this education must be tempered with the guiding ideals of morality in order to allow us act compassionately and justly towards our fellow human beings. I believe this is especially true when it comes to the education of future nurses.

Upon consideration of the differing learning theories, I feel my beliefs are most closely grounded in social constructivism theory (SCT). The concept of social constructivism acknowledges the role social interactions have in the construction of knowledge. This theory reasons that the learner combines previous knowledge and new knowledge, through social interaction with others, to attach meaning to this new memory. Constructivism theories have their origins in classical antiquity. Socrates held discussions with his followers during which he raised questions and then asked directed questions. It was during these social interactions that his students began to realize the errors in their thinking. This method (Socratic) is still utilized by educators who employ social constructivism in assessing how well students are learning, as well as assisting in the development of new learning (Billings & Halstead, 2009).

Today, nursing students come from a wide variety of backgrounds which make it an ideal field in which to utilize social constructivism concepts. Nursing students differ in age, gender, race, educational level, culture, as well as their previous vocations. According to SCT, consideration must be given to past experiences, personal values, and ambitions when developing teaching strategies. Social constructivism puts an emphasis on the creation of meaning through individual paradigms the learner places on his or her situation during these experiences. The addition of a social aspect during learning allows the student to include his or her background to further provide meaning (Wertsch, 1997). The Student-Teacher Relationship

With social constructivism, being an active participant in learning is extremely important for the student (Glaserfeld, 1989). The roots of constructivism lie in the developmental theories of Piaget and the social and historical theories of Vygotsky. Vygotsky introduced the social aspect of learning into constructivism. Vygotsky believed that cognitive development was dependent upon the learner’s social interactions. He further held that social interaction with educators who were more knowledgeable was vital (Vygotsky, 1978). With social constructivism, dissimilarities among learners are favored, allowing educators to serve as mentors for their students during heuristic problem solving, providing for the incorporation of prior knowledge with the formation of new knowledge (Lombardi, 2007).

As a nurse educator, I encourage and challenge my students to interact not only with various clients, but also with fellow students, as well as nurses and other healthcare providers who can serve as mentors for the student. I believe that these social interactions all provide the opportunity for additional learning. Nurses, in particular, can serve as the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) as described by Vygotsky. This concept of the MKO was developed by Vygotsky and refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, in regards to a particular task, procedure, or concept. The MKO is generally considered to be a teacher, coach, or older adult, however, the MKO could also be a student’s peers, a younger person, or even computers (Vygotsky, 1935).

A student’s motivation for learning is also a...
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