Thinking critically is a process. This process involves acquiring knowledge and competency, developing professional values and meanings, and bringing experiential aptitude to bear on whatever situations one may face (Penn, 2008). Educators are tasked with promoting this ability in nursing students prior to graduation so those students can begin their professional practice with a solid foundation in the process of critical thinking. Didactic teaching methods, which are teacher-centered, provide students with facts, theories, and concepts. This does not suffice when teaching students how to think critically. According to one study that compared nursing students taught via didactic lecturing to nursing students taught via an active learning strategy known as case-based learning (CBL), the CBL students “consistently outperformed the didactic program participants” (Kaddoura, 2011, p. 15). This suggests that active learning strategies like CBL are necessary for engaging students in a student-centered learning process that will cultivate rational capabilities and ultimately, improve patient care.
Strategies, Technology, and Tools
CBL is a teaching strategy that uses case studies to present students with a realistic, curriculum based on patient scenarios. Students are then asked questions, which prompt them to fully understand the context of the case, engage in problem solving, and make thoughtful decisions. CBL builds on students’ knowledge bases and skills, combines data, and helps students consider how to apply this information in the future (Kaddoura, 2011). This method is designed to improve critical and independent thinking, however one study shows th...
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...ascertain which are the most relevant or influential, and render carefully considered, rational, and, ultimately, effective judgments. To help nurses achieve this level of competence, nursing programs must place greater emphasis on those tools and strategies whose primary objective is the enhancement of critical thinking skills. Instead of didactic teaching, CBL, high-level questioning, in-depth discussion, and debates, should be mainstays in any nursing program. Nursing has long been recognized as a distinct profession within the medical field, a recognition that brings with it ever-increasing expectations, both by other medical professionals and by patients. Critical thinking is, perhaps, the most important tool nurses can employ to not only meet, but to exceed those expectations, and, in the process, dramatically improve overall health outcomes.
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