After comparing Grow’s model of Staged-Directed Learning with the role I play myself in my classroom, I was surprised to come to the conclusion that I go through all of these stages during the course of 18 weeks as the students and I work through the course material. As these students are not initially very self directed, I tend towards a Stage 1 approach as we work through the first few chapters of our textbook so the students clearly understand what I expect from their learning and they can understand how the textbook is laid out and everything it has to offer. They also understand what they can expect out of the class itself and from me as their instructor.
As they become more comfortable with their new surroundings, classmates, and calling their instructor by their first name, I start to get them to open up more about themselves and their previous experience in school and in the workplace. I promote the understanding of different cultures, different practices, and different beliefs and work hard on getting them to feel comfortable in their differences while still looking at the similarities. Most students are not familiar nor comfortable with critical thinking, but this skill is very important in nursing and developing it is very important at the very beginning of the course.
Increasing the amount of work that the students are responsible for in the classroom as their understanding of terminology and the western classroom/workplace increases, they now begin to create their own presentations on common diseases towards the end of week 4. They produce PowerPoint or Prezi presentations, posters, lectures, pamphlets, etc. while I take on the role of a student, as they teach the rest of us what they have researched and learned. They are questioned about the information used in their presentation, and get graded on the amount of creativity, research, and overall thorough understanding of their topic, whether it was included in their presentation or not. Peer feedback is also employed and students continue to learn from one another positively, and to accept critique and suggestions on how they can improve.
Typically, around week 10 - 12, many of the students are working volunteer jobs in hospitals or nursing homes, or have taken on paid employment in their communities. They are fully engaged in learning all they can and work on making connections in the community and workplace to further enhance their learning and understanding of workplace culture. By this point, although we are still following the curriculum within the class itself, there is a lot of 'outside' influence in classroom discussions depending on where the students are at in their journey here in Canada. Critical thinking skills, problem-based learning, and more autonomy with their own education outside the classroom becomes more and more evident as they take on the norms of Canadian culture. Seeing them grow and embrace the self-directed style of learning that we naturally presume here in Canada is exciting to see and I can’t help but feel proud of them and their accomplishments that occur over such a short period of time.
Students who have completed this course and moved on to the nursing program, and then onto become Licensed Practical Nurses or Registered Nurses in Canada, have told me that their success comes from learning to become “independent from the teacher”. I have been told that before their class, they knew the information as it was taught to them (rote memorization), but they didn’t really understand it (critical thinking). Once able to learn through problem-based and self-directed learning, along with newly developed skills in critical thinking, they were able to fill in the gaps of their knowledge and become successful in their careers.
I don’t think that it is typical that an instructor and their students would move through all 4-stages within one class, and I am crediting this to the fact that the students are already well versed in the information that we are reviewing. Still there is a great deal of information that the students learn once they start to become more self-directed, as the onus is on them for fully understanding content rather than just memorizing the textbook.
Feynman, R. P. (1918-1988). Retrieved from http://quotes.cat-v.org/science on October 17, 2014.
Grow, Gerald O. (1991/1996). "Teaching Learners to be Self-Directed." Adult Education Quarterly, 41 (3), 125-149.