1. Oermann, Marilyn H. PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN

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I have always viewed nursing education as an advanced practice specialty: it has a distinct body of knowledge, much of which is generated from research, that guides educational practices. Graduate-level courses in nursing education allow students and other learners to develop an understanding of this body of knowledge and begin to develop their skills in teaching, evaluation of learning, curriculum development, and providing leadership. As educators gain experience and expand their own knowledge and skills, they develop their expertise, similar to nurses in other specialty areas of practice. I recognize that not everyone agrees with this perspective.


I have been involved in nursing education for a long time, and early on, there were few studies to guide teaching practices. This is not true now-you only have to skim the table of contents of this issue to have a sense of the breadth, depth, and importance of research done by nurse educators. Education-focused journals in other fields-such as medicine, mathematics, and chemistry, to name a few-document the exceptional research being done in those fields as well. The research and scholarship that nurse educators generate-what we study and how we practice as educators-have allowed teaching to move from a procedural and skills approach to pedagogical methods that are aligned with the research, similar to clinical nursing practice, where we have moved from a perspective that nurses are task oriented to one where nurses are viewed as basing their clinical decisions and actions on evidence. Think about simulation, which has been studied extensively and has led to evidence-based standards and methods for debriefing, creating a safe environment, and preparing facilitators, among other areas.1 If you use team-based learning, flipped classes, problem-based learning, and other active learning methods, there is sufficient research to support these methods and guide how to implement them in your courses. It is true that there are many areas of nursing education where there has not been enough research, but the same can be said about other specialty areas of practice.


Educators are conducting studies that build the science of nursing education and provide evidence for making sound educational decisions. The large number of systematic reviews done on teaching methods and other areas of nursing education attest to the expanded number of studies in nursing education (in addition to those in general education) that contribute to our body of knowledge.


Research-generated evidence is not enough. Expert teachers use theories and concepts to organize their knowledge, understand the student experiences, and improve the learning environment. You can see this use of theories and concepts in the articles in this issue. For example, Foronda used the theory of cultural humility to create an innovative method of debriefing for nursing students to critically reflect on past events and better understand diversity and cultural humility. Another group of authors used this same theory to teach principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their nursing program. They provide a practical example of a diversity panel, with students and panelists exploring the intersectionality of experiences in health care and integration of personal perspectives. Another good example of how nurse educators use theories and concepts to understand the student experience and improve the learning environment is the article by Altman et al. They applied concepts of positionality to guide faculty in creating an inclusive, antiracist environment for case-based learning and to help students examine cases through social determinants of health framing.


Expertise is more than knowledge of the research, translating evidence to teaching practices, and using theories and concepts. You need to know how to teach-there are skills to be developed and techniques to be learned, similar to other specialty areas. This knowledge and these skills mean little if the teacher lacks the ability to develop an environment for learning. Students need to be engaged in learning, feel supported by the educator, and be able to discover knowledge on their own. Expert teachers create a true positive learning environment by encouraging student questions and allowing for student errors. The teacher's aim is to help students learn not only for the course or clinical practicum but to gain skills for self-directed and lifelong learning. Research in nursing education has helped us understand how to develop this learning environment.


Not all nurse educators conduct research, but many educators are making important contributions to our body of knowledge by questioning their teaching and assessment methods and trying out new and creative approaches. Read through the articles and teaching tips in this and other issues, and I know you will agree. I am proud of nurse educators and their commitment to developing the distinct body of knowledge of nursing education that we use to guide our practice as teachers.




1. Oermann MH, Kardong-Edgren S. Changing the conversation about doctoral education in nursing: what about research in nursing education?Nurs Outlook. 2018;66(6):523-525. doi: [Context Link]