Integration of Nursing Philosophy into Teaching

Integration of Nursing Philosophy into Teaching

Integration of Nursing Philosophy into Teaching

Philosophical Foundations of the Curriculum

Theresa M. “Terry” Valiga, EdD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN

Beautiful words. Admirable values. Published prominently on websites and in catalogues, student handbooks and accreditation reports. The philosophical statement of a school of nursing is accepted by faculty as a document that must be crafted to please external reviewers, but for many it remains little more than that. Far too often the school’s philosophy remains safely tucked inside a report but is rarely seen as a living document that guides the day-to-day workings of the school.

In reality, the philosophy of a school of nursing should be referenced and reflected upon often. It should be reviewed seriously with candidates for faculty positions and with those individuals who join the community as new members. It should be discussed in a deliberate way with potential students and with students as they progress throughout the program. And it should be a strong guiding force as the school revises or sharpens its goals, outlines action steps to implement its strategic plan, and makes decisions about the allocation of resources.Integration of Nursing Philosophy into Teaching

This chapter explores the significance of reflecting on, articulating, and being guided by a philosophy, examines the essential components of a philosophy for a school of nursing, and points out how philosophical statements guide the design and implementation of the curriculum and the evaluation of its effectiveness. The role of faculty, administrators, and students in crafting and “living” the philosophy is discussed, and the issues and debates surrounding the “doing of philosophy” ( Greene, 1973 ) are examined. Finally, suggestions are offered regarding how faculty might go about writing or revising the school’s philosophy.

What Is Philosophy?

The educational philosopher Maxine Greene (1973) challenged educators to “do philosophy.” By this she meant that we need to take the risk of thinking about what we do when we teach and what we mean when we talk of enabling others to learn. It also means we need to become progressively more conscious of the choices and commitments we make in our professional lives. Greene also challenged educators to look at our presuppositions, to examine critically the principles underlying what we think and what we say as educators, and to confront the individual within us. She acknowledged that we often have to ask and answer painful questions when we “do philosophy.”

In his seminal book, The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer (2007) asserted that “though the academy claims to value multiple modes of knowing, it honors only one—an ‘objective’ way of knowing that takes us into the ‘real’ world by taking us ‘out of ourselves’” (p. 18). He encouraged educators to challenge this culture by bringing a more human, personal perspective to the teaching–learning experience. Like Greene, Palmer suggested that, to do this, educators must look inside so that we can understand that “we teach who we are” (p. xi) and so that we can appreciate that such insight is critical for “authentic teaching, learning, and living” (p. ix).

Philosophy, then, is a way of framing questions that have to do with what is presupposed, perceived, intuited, believed, and known. It is a way of contemplating, examining, or thinking about what is taken to be significant, valuable, or worthy of commitment. Additionally, it is a way of becoming self-aware and thinking of everyday experiences as opportunities to reflect, contemplate, and exercise our curiosity so that questions are posed about what we do and how we do it, usual practices are challenged and not merely accepted as “the way things are,” and positive change can occur. Indeed, 119each of us—as a fundamental practice of being—must go beyond the reality we confront, refuse to accept it as a given and, instead, view life as a reality to be created.

These perspectives on “doing philosophy” focus primarily on individuals—as human beings in general or as teachers in particular—reflecting seriously on their beliefs and values. There is no question that such reflection is critical and is to be valued and encouraged. However, “doing philosophy” must also be a group activity when one is involved in curriculum work. In crafting a statement of philosophy for a school of nursing, the beliefs and values of all faculty must be considered, addressed, and incorporated as much as possible. In fact, the very process of talking about one’s beliefs and values—while it may generate heated debates—leads to a deeper understanding of what a group truly accepts as guiding principles for all it does.

Philosophical Statements

A philosophy is essentially a narrative statement of values or beliefs. It reflects broad principles or fundamental “isms” that guide actions and decision making, and it expresses the assumptions we make about people, situations, or goals. As noted by Bevis in her seminal work ( 1989, p. 35 ), the philosophy “provides the value system for ordering priorities and selecting from among various data.”

In writing a philosophical statement, we must raise questions, contemplate ideas, examine what it is we truly believe, become self-aware, and probe what might be—and what should be. It calls on us to think critically and deeply, forge ideas and ideals, and become highly conscious of the phenomena and events in the world.

We also must reflect on the mission, vision, and values of our parent institution and of our school itself, as well as on the values of our profession. Figure 7-1 illustrates how a school’s statement of philosophy is related to but differs from these other sources. A mission statement describes unique purposes for which an institution or nursing unit exists: to improve the health of the surrounding community, to advance scientific understanding or contribute to the development of nursing science, to prepare responsible citizens, or to graduate individuals who will influence public policy to ensure access to quality health care for all. A vision is an expression of what an institution or nursing unit wants to be: the institution of choice for highly qualified students wishing to make a positive difference in our world; the leader in integrating innovative technology in the preparation of nurses; or a center of synergy for teaching, research, professional practice, and public service. Institutions and schools of nursing often also articulate a set of values that guide their operation: honesty and transparency, serving the public good, excellence, innovation, or constantly being open to change and transformation.

Figure 7-1 Interrelation of curricular elements.

As stated, a philosophy statement is the narrative that reflects and integrates concepts expressed in the mission, vision, and values of the institution or profession; it serves to guide the actions and decisions of those involved in the organization. Educational philosophy is a matter of “doing philosophy” with respect to the educational enterprise as it engages the educator. It involves becoming critically conscious of what is involved in the complex teaching–learning relationship and what education truly means. The following statements about education, many by well-known individuals, provide examples of different philosophical perspectives:

The secret of Education lies in respecting the pupil.

Integration of Nursing Philosophy into Teaching