The 2019 CNSA conference theme was “Aspire to inspire: Celebrating student leadership and advocacy.” It truly was inspiring to see examples of nursing student leadership everywhere – in the conference planning group, in the opening ceremonies, and throughout the conference program as presenters.
On Friday afternoon we presented a breakout session called, “Critical inquiry and student leadership in collaborative course design”, sharing our experience working with Professor Anne Simmonds to design and implement a collaborative approach to curriculum design.
How did we end up there? After completing NUR315, Introduction to the Profession and Practice of Nursing, in our first semester of nursing school, Anne invited the whole class to provide feedback about the course. We took up her offer and embarked on a volunteer project in April 2018 to reshape the course for the following year.
We used the method of critical inquiry, which involved reflecting on our experience of taking the course, examining the ideas and assumptions embedded in the assignment design with Anne in the spirit of inquiry and curiosity, and envisioning how the assignments for NUR351 could be redesigned to optimize achievement of the course learning objectives. After forming some initial thoughts about how to improve the course, we held a focus group with other students in our cohort to gather further input. This iterative, critically reflective process led to changes in the NUR351 learning assessments for the following academic year. The changes were intended to better tap into the range of knowledge and experience students bring into the program and to offer students a deeper platform for grappling with theory-practice gaps and moral distress experienced during clinical placements.
Apart from changes to NUR351 course design, there were several other important outcomes of this project. As a group, we explored the power dynamics and vulnerabilities of working together as students and faculty. We strengthened our peer-peer and student-faculty relationships and set a precedent for faculty to work more closely with students in designing their courses. Now, two other students from the class of 2020 are involved in carrying this work forward. We wanted to share these benefits of collaborative curriculum design with the CNSA student body to inspire students to get more involved in shaping their nursing school experience.
We delivered a one-hour presentation, sharing our experience and lessons learned, and generating discussion among participants through exploration of two case studies showcasing additional approaches to collaborative course design. Our presentation was attended by students from several other provinces and was well-received, judging by participants’ thoughtful questions and lively participation in discussions. We heard about similarities and differences in approaches to nursing education across Canada, as well as challenges experienced as a result of curriculum design. We also heard about collaborative curriculum design projects happening at other universities.
In our presentation, we made an analogy between student-centred learning and patient-centred care: including students in course design is like including patients in the plan of care, both of which require time, dialogue, and trust. We are grateful that we have had the opportunity to work with a faculty member at Bloomberg to advocate for student learning and lead change, and we hope that sharing our experience inspired other students to find opportunities at their schools to do the same.
Alex Nunn & Lindsey Lenters
2nd year students