A Journey from Nursing Clinician to Nurse Educator (PartIV)

Afza.Malik GDA

Preceptor to Mentor and Cognitive Specification

A Journey from Nursing Clinician to Nurse Educator (PartIV)

Mentors to Partners, From Preceptor to Mentor, Preceptors and Cognitive Apprenticeship

From Preceptor to Mentor

    A preceptor-graduate student relationship is usually intended for a predetermined length of time, with set objectives for the relationship and with expected roles for the relationship. Although a preceptor model may be one used in academia to provide one-on-one learning opportunities for the novice, it does not necessarily foster long-term relationships. 

    On the other hand, Vance and Olson (1998) have done extensive research on mentor relationships in nursing and found that mentored nurses are more likely to become leaders in their profession. Furthermore, 83% of influential nurses reported having one or more mentors. With the "graying" of nursing faculty, the future of nursing is at stake. 

    We need to recognize that the way to entice more nurses to become educators is by nurturing, supporting, and encouraging their pursuit of graduate education. What better way to do this than by participating in a mentoring relationship? 

    Specific help provided by mentors included career advice, guidance, promotion, professional role modeling, intellectual and scholarly stimulation, inspiration, idealism, teaching, advising, tutoring, and emotional support. Graduate nursing students should be on the lookout for a good mentor to support further career development. The prospective mentor may be a preceptor, an educator, or a peer.

Mentors to Partners

    In today's literature, we find that a mentoring relationship can be more of a partnership in which participants help and are helped by one another (Heinrich, Cote et al., 2003; Vance & Olson, 1998). This type of relationship has long-term benefits both for the individuals involved and the profession as a whole. You may ask, “Can every preceptor be a mentor/partner?” 

    The answer is maybe, maybe not; much depends on the shared commitment and affinity that both partners have for a mutually beneficial relationship. When mutual benefits are present in a mentorship (Vance & Olson, 1998), “[m] entoring assumes caring; a connecting with one another. Connections of caring are sources of power and influence for both mentor/leader and protégé/rising star”. 

    One can see that both partners benefit from sharing one another's perspective and expertise. It is time that nurse-educators stop trying to go it alone in nursing and reach out to others, to share gifts, talents, and insights. 

    \A partnership relationship in which both participants reap the rewards from working with one another can help nurses individually and collectively be more satisfied in their professional and personal life (Eisen, 2001; Heinrich et al., 2005; Heinrich, Cote et al., 2003 ; Heinrich & Scherr, 1994). Mentoring partnerships created for the purpose of professional growth can help not only to ease the transition from clinician to educator, but also to achieve competence for the new nurse educator.

Cognitive Apprenticeship Specifically

    Learning from an expert can best be accomplished by working closely, apprenticing, with the expert. Future nurse educators are not just apprenticing in the skill of teaching, they are also learning the thinking, reasoning, and critical thinking necessary. Cognitive apprenticeship provides a framework from which to plan teaching-learning experiences. 

    Cognitive apprenticeship is a framework in which learning is depicted as a social process occurring within communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Participation begins in the periphery of the occupation being learned, and through novice-expert relations, the learner becomes increasingly more involved in complex, higher-order issues.

    “Cognitive apprenticeship derives its power from knowledgeable, proficient people showing learners how to do something and stating aloud what they are thinking while doing the activity” (Brandt, Farmer, & Buckmaster, 1993, p. 75). In the cognitive apprenticeship process, learners work with a master (expert) who teaches by the methodologies listed.

Preceptors and Cognitive Apprenticeship

    The cognitive apprenticeship framework described earlier can be used by preceptors, mentors and, in some cases, partners. Cognitive apprenticeship has been shown to facilitate learning from experience. A preceptor or mentor can use cognitive apprenticeship strategies. Strategies, such as modeling, coaching, scaffolding support, promoting reflection, promoting articulation, and providing a variety of experiences, can help teach future nurse educators. 

    Consider how cognitive apprenticeship can be used in graduate education within the preceptorship experience. Preceptors, those specialized tutors who give practical training to student educators, are an integral part of graduate education. Both the preceptor and learner have a role in the apprenticeship process. 

    The preceptor serves as a role model for the student educator in that he has expertise in the field. Preceptors model their expertise when they help the student educator develop a teaching-learning plan that includes learning objectives, time frames, and learning activities. 

    During the course of the preceptor-student relationship, the preceptor will share stories from her practice that exemplify practical knowledge, as well as values and attitudes essential in nursing education. Preceptors will coach their student educators as they take on more responsibility for teaching. In the coaching role, the preceptor provides encouragement and support as the student tests the waters of being a nurse educator. 

    The preceptor encourages the student to be as self-directed as possible in taking on the role of nurse educator. Learning is an active process that involves individual construction of knowledge based on one's earlier experience. 

    Coaching and providing scaffolded support are key strategies where the amount and intensity of support is gradually diminished as the student takes on more responsibility and accountability. Although the preceptor's presence is felt, reliance on the preceptor's knowledge and experience decreases over time. 

    The preceptor should be available to answer questions as needed, but must recognize the value in self-directed learning and push the student to become more independent in her learning over time. Student educators should be encouraged to seek new ways of looking at experiences, ever questioning, reflecting on experience, and refining knowledge construction. 

    Coaching and scaffolding provide the challenge and support necessary for students to consider their practice and evaluate their performance continuously as they transition from practitioner to educator. Reflection, articulation, and experience are strategies that the graduate student should use in the teaching-learning process. 

    The graduate student should analyze and determine goals for the preceptored experience. Students should be encouraged to reflect on their experience in order to optimize learning. Reflection-in-action entails thinking during practice, and reflection-on-action (Schon, 1991) involves thinking back on the practice session and analyzing decisions/events that occurred. Both enhance learning and aid in the process of evaluation. 

    While graduate students are being precepted, they should write a journal for each day of their experience; they should write about the experience and connect what they have seen or done during their practicum with literature that they are reading for the course. Students are encouraged to question any problems/concerns they encounter during their anticipated experience. They can articulate this reflection either in writing or through discourse. 

    Much research supports the importance of thinking about one's thinking and responses in a situation to maximize learning from experience (Mattingly, 1991; Schon, 1991; Sheckley , 1997). Reflection on experience and articulation of an experience promote critical analysis and expand learning opportunities. 

    For example, when a student educator reflects on a nursing student performing an injection for the first time and describes the performance in her journal, she realizes that only one domain of learning should be focused on at a time in order to optimize skill development. The student educator who does not reflect and articulate theory to practice connections, in this instance, domains of learning, would not make this connection. 

    Consequences of a lack of reflection and critical analysis are that the future educator may ask cognitive questions while a nursing student is performing a psychomotor skill, thus interfering with skill development. 

    Graduate student responsibilities therefore include elaborating and prioritizing specific learning to meet needs, meeting with the preceptor to develop a tentative schedule of activities to meet learning objectives, and seeking feedback from the preceptor on an ongoing basis. Discussing and evaluating the boundaries and expectations of the preceptor relationship uses both reflection and articulation to enhance learning from experience.

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