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A Focused Ethnography of Nursing Faculty and Student Transition to the Culture of a Context–Based Learning Curriculum Open Access


Other title
Focused Ethnography, Nursing Faculty Student, Transition, Culture, Context-Based Learning, Curriculum
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Darkwah, Vivian A.
Supervisor and department
Dr. Bev Williams (Faculty of Nursing)
Dr. Carolyn Ross (Faculty of Nursing)
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Pauline Paul
Dr. Carolyn Ross
Dr. Joanne Olson
Dr. Sherry Dahlke
Dr. Olenka Bilash
Dr. Bev. Williams
Dr. Linda Ferguson
Faculty of Nursing

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Twenty-first century nurses need to be flexible and adapt to the increasing changes in the health care system. Because nurses need to be dynamic in their practice, there is a recommendation to change the education of nursing students from a traditional, teacher-centered approach to an innovative, student-centered approach. Context-based learning (CBL), a type of student – centered teaching and learning, is used in the education of undergraduate nursing students in the Faculty of Nursing in a large western Canadian university. Although CBL is reported in the literature to be beneficial to nursing students’ future practice by increasing students’ problem-solving skills, collaborative learning and lifelong learning, both faculty members and students have had challenges with the transition from a traditional approach to CBL. The purpose of this study was to learn more about the meaning that nursing faculty and students allocate to their transition to the culture of a CBL approach. A focused ethnographic method was used to generate data for the study through field observation, focus group interviews of faculty members and students and document analysis. Spradley’s (1979, 1980) four levels of ethnographic data analysis were used to analyze the research data. The findings from this study support findings in the literature about the transition from a traditional to a student-centered curriculum. The students were initially confused and found the transition to CBL difficult but as they progressed through the program they became comfortable and enjoyed CBL. A unique finding from the students’ data was that the students would like both lectures and CBL in their education. Regarding faculty members, some were satisfied with their transition to CBL while a small number were frustrated. Overall, both faculty members and students shared that learning in CBL is collaborative and the classroom is a community. Learning in CBL occurs as students interact with course materials, peers and tutors. The cognitive theme that guides faculty members and students in CBL is “trusting each other and trusting the process in a CBL community of learning.” The tutors and students agreed they need to trust each other and trust the intended method students outcomes are achieved through. Several recommendations have been made such as the need to strengthen trust in the CBL program through mentorship. Also, tutors should periodically reassure students that they read through their research and will let them know if any additional information is required. The findings contribute to literature in nursing on faculty and student transition to a CBL curriculum.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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