Philosophy of education

The principles underlying the curriculum at UNB reflect experiential learning, and are focused on the abilities, knowledge, skills and predispositions necessary for nursing practice. The philosophy of education underlying the curriculum and the teaching-learning environment are influenced by phenomenological, egalitarian, dialogical, and participatory commitments, emphasizing the value of critical thinking.

Thinking professionals

Praxis or the enabling of theory and practice each to inform and shape the other (Bevis & Watson, 1989; Chinn &Kramer, 2011) is a necessary basis for a practice profession. Critical thinking, values clarification, and self-awareness are crucial approaches to helping learners develop as thinking professionals. The Faculty appreciates others’ lived experiences and demonstrates this value of diversity by respecting all learning, including prior learning and life experiences.

Learning skills and Outcomes-Based Learning

The Faculty of Nursing has incorporated into the curriculum principles of adult learning, drawing on critical thinking and reflection skills. The curriculum reflects a commitment to dialectic learning relationships, while also emphasizing student learning and engaging students in the assessment of their learning over all years of the degree programs. The Faculty has accepted an integration of multiple perspectives and realities in our learning philosophy (Chinn, 2013), while also emphasizing the cumulative development of abilities that are found in professional practice (Mentkowski et al 2000). Current pedagogy supports the integration of lived experiences, personal insights, predispositions, and multiple ways of knowing, including but extending beyond, the scientific/empiric paradigm.

The curriculum accepts and incorporates respect for diversity in perspectives, beliefs, and values among faculty members, learners, and clients as co-learners.

Educational community

In an experiential, abilities-based paradigm of nursing education, the curriculum is not exclusively about content; it is about the process of integrative learning. A focus on integrative learning is supported by the creation of an educational community that fosters a sense of involvement, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of connection with others. Learning outcomes, goals, time frames, and educational structures of evaluation are used as tools, but they are not the interpersonal focal point of the curriculum. The most important dimension of the educational community is the process (Chinn, 1989, 2013) of supporting students’ learning over all years of their degree program. Included in this paradigm, curriculum is defined as dynamic interactions between and among students, teachers, clients, and health care professionals (referred to as co-learners) as well as content, with the intent that integrative learning of abilities for practice takes place (Bevis & Watson, 1989). Pedagogically, nothing can be taken for granted. The literature accessed, content selected, language used, faculty conduct, values, attitudes and behaviours, and goals all impact on a learning encounter (Chinn, 1989, 2013).

Co-learning environment

Moving the role of teacher to facilitator within the curriculum is a strategy to reduce unequal power relationships that exist within many institutional settings. Here, teachers are participants and co-learners. However, teachers bring experience and background knowledge into the learning encounter as a starting point for learning and developing abilities found in practice (Chinn, 1989, 2013).

Learning for practice is seen as a major goal and specific strategies have been developed which are congruent with the preparation for professional practice (Sullivan& Rosen 2008). Co-learning is valued. Strategies include; innovations in instructional technology for educative learning, interactive teaching methodologies, smaller group sizes, problem-solving, and student participation through active and independent learning.

Equal partners

As co-learners, students are equal partners in the educational enterprise. The focus on learning is clinically grounded with assessment strategies directed toward students’ integration of abilities found in practice.  The curriculum is directed toward helping learners to think critically, problem-solve, communicate effectively, grow in their professional identity and question normatively, using ethical deliberation.

Faculty members facilitate critical thinking, encourage learners to examine and question the status quo, and to use that understanding to create change. Therefore, an anticipatory-innovative approach to learning is valued to encourage teacher and learner to consider trends, make plans, evaluate future consequences and effects of present decisions, and recognize global implications of local, regional, and national actions.

Anticipatory learning uses techniques such as forecasting (“What if?”), simulations, scenarios, and models. A primary feature of anticipatory-innovative learning is participation and interaction in a milieu characterized by cooperation, mutuality, dialogue and empathy (Bevis & Watson, 1989). These dimensions of a learning community are strengthened by transparent and collaborative strategies of assessing student learning.

In classrooms, co-learners work on developing relationships of trust, respect, and equality which transfer into client situations. Faculty, learners, and clients model joint decision-making to foster working toward goals that help clients maintain responsibility for their own health.

The goal of the curriculum is to help learners develop the mind-set, self-image, and skills to make the “equal partners” concept the one of first choice (Hall, 1993). Learners will see themselves as active partners in the health care team, which is essential within the principles of primary health care.

Abilities in an Outcome-based Framework

Flexibility and diversity have been generally accepted as qualities necessary for the accomplishment of abilities-based learning. . These are reflected in an outcomes based framework of integrated learning in the curriculum. In the undergraduate program, five abilities organize our framework of learning. These include: 1) Knowledge and its application; 2) Critical thinking/skills of analysis; 3) Communication; 4) Professional identity and ethics; 5) Social justice/citizenship.  The ongoing, reflective, metacognitive appraisal of abilities found in our curriculum, their relationship to practice and evidence of students’ learning is not without its challenges. Ongoing faculty development has proven to be essential for accomplishing shifts in mind set necessary for the paradigm of abilities-based learning, assessing student learning, and linking this learning to abilities essential in nursing practice.
The UNB nursing curriculum framework supports a holistic and multidimensional view of nursing as it guides both theoretical and practical components.

The multi-site curriculum is based upon co-created values that continue to be articulated by students and faculty members. Emphasis on caring is supported by our efforts to treat learners as colleagues and to support one another. Relationships between faculty and students as co-learners, therefore, are fundamental to the curriculum. Defining social justice and Primary Health Care in the curriculum through abilities and learning outcomes also makes the totality of learning experiences an integrative process, influencing professional formation in nursing.

Interactive learning

Our belief that learning takes place in interactions between co-learners makes interactive learning strategies within a safe learning environment crucial. Promoting nursing practice that incorporates the principles of Primary Health Care respects the concept of praxis and incorporates essential clinical experiences to ground theoretical content.

Clients are helped to participate in meeting their own needs and in planning health care services as full team members. These actions demonstrate our acceptance and valuing of diversity, development of caring learning environments that foster egalitarian relationships and social justice, and encouragement of graduates to consider practice beyond the current health care system through becoming active, critically thinking practitioners.