Learn at home, do homework in class: Nursing school tests nontraditional teaching methods

Students and professor sit at table.

A nursing professor leads a class in Wende Hall.

UB researchers to test effectiveness of the KWLA+R and flipped classroom in nursing courses

Release Date: July 15, 2015 This content is archived.

“This process helps breaks down those barriers to learning by making it personal and student-centered. ”
M. Susan Grinslade, clinical professor and assistant dean for undergraduate programs in the UB School of Nursing

BUFFALO, N.Y. – To improve learning among college students, a group of University at Buffalo researchers has turned to the kindergarten classroom for help.

In a new pilot study, led by M. Susan Grinslade, PhD, assistant dean for undergraduate programs in the UB School of Nursing, researchers will test the effectiveness of the KWLA+R, a teaching method mainly used in primary and elementary education, to improve critical thinking skills and academic performance among nursing students.

The researchers will also implement and study the flipped classroom, a nontraditional method of learning where students view lessons outside of the classroom, typically through video or audio recordings, and complete homework and other assignments in class with an instructor.

The study, “Does Innovative Use of the KWLA+R© and a Flipped Classroom Influence Achievement of Program Outcomes and ‘Think like a nurse’ In a Baccalaureate Nursing Education Program?,” is funded by the Seed Grant for Promoting Pedagogical Innovation from the UB Center for Educational Innovation.

“Typically when you think of a classroom, you think of a ‘sage on a stage,’ where a teacher lectures for some time and shares information,” says Grinslade, also a clinical professor of nursing. “There is not a lot of student engagement. The purpose of the KWLA+R and flipped classroom is to engage students in learning before they come into the classroom.”

The study will examine information from more than 130 students in the traditional and accelerated BS in Nursing programs who have used the KWLA+R. The researchers will collect data from completed charts to examine changes in critical thinking, and will gather test scores and National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) first-time pass rates to compare with previous classes. The NCLEX is a licensing exam for nurses.

Researchers will also simulate the flipped classroom with a group of student participants and gather similar data.

KWLA is a teaching method that breaks learning into three steps: before starting an assignment students examine what they already know about a topic; they then decide what they want to learn from the assignment; and after its completion, they reflect on what they learned. The information is recorded onto a chart, displaying their comprehension of the material throughout the assignment.

The method was developed in 1986 by education researcher Donna Ogle to help elementary teachers to improve reading comprehension.

Grinslade first learned of the KWLA during a 2012 faculty development workshop for teaching online courses. There, she immediately saw its potential for use inside the college classroom.

To tailor the process to nursing students, Grinslade added a step for reflection, or “R,” where students are tasked with reflecting on how they will apply what they learned to their practice.

KWLA+R was introduced to a small group of students in 2012 and has now expanded across the undergraduate program.

“This tool seems to be critical to helping students see the transformation that is occurring within themselves,” says Grinslade. “That is important because there are some students who do assignments because their teacher told them to. This process helps breaks down those barriers to learning by making it personal and student-centered.”

Additional investigators on the study include Deborah Raines, PhD, associate professor, Theresa Winkelman, clinical assistant professor, Penelope McDonald, PhD, clinical assistant professor, and Linda Steeg, clinical associate professor, all of the UB School of Nursing; and Marie Larcara, Education Technologies program director at Canisius College.

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Marcene Robinson is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email ub-news@buffalo.edu or visit our list of current university media contacts.