Nurse education is the foundation for both professional nursing practice and critical nursing thought. This speaks to the immense responsibility and influence nurse educators may have in the development of our profession. Today, we share the work of nurse educator Jennifer Castleberry, reflecting on the components of her philosophy of education. Mindfully reflecting on our pedagogical and cultural assumptions may lead us toward more equitable and just teaching praxis. This, we hope, can lead us toward a more just and equitable healthcare reality.
My philosophy of education is a patchwork quilt of varied experiences, threaded together by the rich culture of teaching in which I was raised. My mother was a career middle school home economics teacher. My father spent his career teaching middle and high school shop and industrial arts. I grew up in an environment where I was continually guided to look things up and value my educational experiences. After studying music education in college, I started my own teaching career with kindergarten and first-grade students with what I would refer to as a sprinkling of experience teaching high school special education.
Caring and nurturing have always been some of my core values and attributes, but I was unable to immediately find my own niche in education. I eventually found myself wanting to provide deeper and more personal care through a career in nursing. While my nursing knowledge developed at the bedside through my experiences as a medical-surgical and emergency nurse, the call to teach always present. When the opportunity arose to teach nursing students in the clinical setting, I was thrilled to be able to fuse these two aspects of my career expertise. However, it was not until I took a full-time teaching position that I began to exercise deep self-reflection regarding my role as an educator. This reflection included consideration of my own personal beliefs and values. It also required meditation on as my ability to disseminate knowledge, exercise compassion, and demonstrate expertise in a field that is continually changing and persistently wrought with moral and ethical uncertainties. Through my varied experiences, I have developed a caring philosophy of teaching that has continued to mature through my endeavors to teach adult learners how to be caring and competent nurses.
I believe in a caring and progressivist philosophy of teaching that focuses on meeting students’ educational needs, guiding them through challenges, and equipping them to engage in rich learning experiences. Education is a relational experience. As such, I aspire to provide my students with mentorship that supports their emotional, intellectual, and educational needs. I help students navigate the rigorous curriculum, challenging schedule, and other demands of an accelerated master’s level nursing program. Furthermore, I take time to reflect on the purposes of learning activities and how the activities I provide align with learners’ educational and professional needs. I continually reassess my learning activities, reformat my courses, and use student and peer evaluations to address opportunities and victories in my teaching strategies.
Within a philosophical framework of caring, I strive to address essential educational components in my teaching endeavors. These components include adult learning, active and collaborative learning, and culturally-responsive education. It is my duty as a nurse educator to understand the essential components of adult learning and to prepare my students to provide competent, safe, ethical, and equitable care for all patients. This speaks to the enormity of nursing education, the profound impact nurse educators have on their students, yes, but patients and the public also as nurses progress from students to professionals.
Jennifer Castleberry, MEd, MSN, RN, CNL teaches at Augusta University College of Nursing and is working on her Doctorate in Nursing Education at The University of West Georgia. Prior to taking a full-time faculty role at Augusta University, Jennifer has worked in both Medical-Surgical and Emergency nursing and taught both elementary and high school.