Gender and Linguistic Bias and Learning Styles In Nursing Education

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Nursing Education and Gender and Linguistic Bias and Learning Styles

Gender and Linguistic Bias and Learning Styles In Nursing Education

Gender and Linguistic Bias In Nursing Education, Learning Styles In Nursing Education

Gender and Linguistic Bias In Nursing Education

    Everyone is capable of bias and therefore is not and cannot be all knowing and completely objective; this is true also for members of the scientific community as well as faculty and staff in nursing programs. Thus, for faculty, understanding their own biases as well as their students’ beliefs and biases is a component of cultural due diligence and a prerequisite to establishing an inclusive learning environment. 

    In a class with diverse students, it is prudent as well as necessary for faculty to be attentive to responses by anyone in the class that may be perceived as dismissive or minimizing. Unconscious bias plays a part in the way faculty and students are perceived by others. 

    Faculty and students can determine their biases by taking assessment tools, which can be a springboard for getting in touch with personal subconscious biases in a safe manner. The results can be transformative in terms of self-awareness. 

    Promoting equity in teaching also means that teachers are aware of subconscious biases and differential treatment. As psychologist Claude Steele’s (2010) research indicates, even the fear that one will be judged according to extant stereotypes can depress academic performance. 

    Examples of bias include gender bias and reactions to students who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD). Research on gender bias in classrooms has supported tendencies for teachers to interact with one gender more than another (Salter, 2004). 

    Specifically in classrooms with predominantly majority students, there is a tendency for teachers to interact with white male students more than they interact with women and men of color. With this awareness, teachers should make concerted efforts to provide equal treatment by engaging all students. 

    This includes the quiet student who speaks up infrequently. Deliberate actions can be taken to accomplish this by devising a system for engaging students regardless of gender or ethnicity. One frequently used technique is placing index cards in an accessible manner where individuals can write their comments or questions anonymously. This provides insights on where students are struggling with concepts or have concerns that must be addressed. 

    With increasing numbers of male students in nursing programs, gender dynamics become important, and it is essential to deploy gender-neutral language unless specificity of gender affects the lesson being taught or the point being made. Faculty may also have a bias for students who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD). 

    In fact, language differences is a key source of discrimination on the part of faculty, students, and patients, causing students for whom English is not their first or only language to feel devaluated (Smith & Smyer, 2015). 

    English language learner (ELL) students, also known as CALD students (Fuller, 2013), must be able to learn, write, take tests, and communicate with classmates and patients in two languages, first translating the concepts or communication into their own language and then back into English. 

    If a student has an accent, challenges in communications may arise between the ELL student and other students or between the ELL student and faculty; class participation that requires verbal responses may be a challenge. In such situations, faculty may refer students to accent reduction or modification programs. 

    Carr and DekemelIchikawa (2012) reported favorable results for international students who participated in an accent modification course. Assumptions and beliefs undergird all interactions with others. 

    For example, non-verbal behaviors such as frowns, furrowed brows, and intense concentration may not be deliberate behaviors; rather, their use may be related to efforts to try to capture what is being voiced by the student, and faculty and students should seek to understand the meaning of the behavior rather than make assumptions about it. 

    Unless clarified, these non-verbal behaviors may have an effect on students’ future participation in discussions and classroom interactions. They may refrain from participation or not respond to or ask questions because of the panicky feelings they may experience at having to speak in class. 

    Efforts can be made to address some of these differences by incorporating strategies to improve linguistic competence such as the use of assignments for reading with a study guide, for writing (including brief written assignments, accepting paper drafts, and ongoing writing), and for speaking and listening (Guttman, 2004). 

    Faculty can pay attention to techniques that are used for questioning, for example, asking “why” and “how” questions and encouraging and requesting students to “take risks” at no cost and to explore “possibilities.” Questions framed in an open manner tend to be less intimidating than those that give the impression that only one answer is possible. 

    Waiting up to 10 to 12 seconds for a reply provides an opportunity for students to formulate and translate their thoughts from their native language to English. An additional way to engage students in language use is to use a learning activity that requires them to write a question related to the assignment each week and ask them to read the question in class or small peer group. 

    This activity has a high potential for opening dialogue, decreasing shyness, and enhancing community building with the class. Furthermore, faculty must be willing to address students’ affective issues that influence their feelings about English. 

    According to Halic, Greenburg, and Paulus (2009), graduate students from various countries outside the United States who participated in a phenomenological study about their language identity expressed major concerns about how faculty and peers perceived them as they developed a stronger grasp of the English language. 

    Also, these students shared their own notions of English as a barrier and a “channel of access” given their interactions in classroom settings (Halic et al., 2009, p. 82). It is not uncommon in informal settings for students to share personal feelings of exclusion or isolation. Opportunities should be provided for informal conversations outside of the classroom. 

    The use of “gatherings” as a support strategy has been reported to be beneficial for CALD students, as well as for other underrepresented students (Stokes, 2003). This support initiative provides a forum for students to openly discuss issues and concerns in a supportive nonacademic environment. 

    As a result, students have increased confidence in their abilities and may make more frequent participation in informal and more formal classroom activities, including discussions. Faculty must also be aware of students’ use of voice registers. According to Payne (2005), every language in the world has five registers. Joos (1967) found that it is socially acceptable to go down one register in the same conversation. 

    However, to drop two registers or more in the same conversation is to be socially offensive. Faculty must be sensitive to the subtleties in student vocalizations and the voice registers they use; for example, in some cultures, it may be appropriate to be what might be considered by the dominant culture as “soft spoken” or “loud.” 

Learning Styles In Nursing Education

    Recent evidence indicates that students’ learning styles may also differ by race and ethnicity (see Chapter 2). For example, using the Kolb Learning Style Inventory, Fogg, Carlson Sabelli, Carlson, and Giddens (2013) reported that there were distinct differences in learning style based on self-identified racial ethnic group: there was a good likelihood that African American students were assimilators, whites were convergers, Hispanics and Latinos were accommodators, and Asian Americans were divergers. 

    These findings are significant in light of the underrepresentation of minority students in nursing education. Using multimodal methods of learning may help students regardless of learning style. 

   Because learning styles are not static and can change over time, faculty can assist students with the identification of their learning style and conduct sessions for students to optimize their learning style throughout the nursing curriculum (Kyprianidou, Demetriadis, Tsiatsos, & Pombortsis 2012). 

    Another area in which there are reported cultural differences is the need for context, or the amount of background information students need to facilitate their learning (Giddens, 2008). American Indian students and students from Asia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Spain tend to require more context. 

    For students from these high-context cultures, meaning comes from the environment, is more human oriented, and is sought in relationships between the ideas expressed in the communication process. These students benefit from learning activities such as storytelling and description. 

    On the other hand, students from Anglo or European cultures tend to require little context to support their learning, these low-context students place meaning in exact verbal descriptions or direct forms of communication, and benefit from having limited amount of detail and enrichment for learning. 

    Students from different cultures also vary in their preferences for having faculty present and for studying alone versus studying in groups. Some students have the implicit expectation that faculty will transmit all the knowledge; they may be reluctant to raise questions, but instead will memorize information as presented (Amaro, Abriam Yago, & Yoder, 2006). 

    This hierarchical perspective can affect the manner in which students respond to classroom activities. In classrooms in the United States, students are expected to be active learners, to participate in group activities, to ask questions, and to openly express thoughts. 

    On the other hand, the responses of Asian students to classroom activities such as group exercises may not be highly regarded because the “authoritative figure” is not primary and center. Group and team work also may not be an effective approach for all students. 

    Self-organizing groups work well, but can leave those who are perceived or seen as different left out, with a sense of not being wanted or welcome. Faculty must ensure that cliques do not form when they or students make group or team assignments.

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