Monday, January 17, 2011

Powerpoint and Critical Thinking

Update: In addition to the reading and assignments I received today [my last first day of class ever], I am going to take on some new books. The first is Lipstick in Afghanistan and the second is The Designful Company: How to create a culture of nonstop innovation. The latter I discovered from this post on the blog Nursetopia, which is concise, informative, and a great nursing blog to follow.
Today one of my professors referred to an article from The New York Times that discussed the effectiveness, or lack therof, of powerpoint presentations when she was discussing her teaching methods for the course. I think I found the article she was referring to, and it's entitled "We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Powerpoint." It's an interesting commentary of the overwhelming use of powerpoint in the Army to explain extremely complex situations. There's no need for uproar about war strategy here-our purpose is only to evaluate the significance of the article's claims for nursing. The article states, "Commanders say that behind all the PowerPoint jokes are serious concerns that the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making." I think it's fair to say that nursing education addresses complex issues, and powerpoint is commonly used to explain these complexities. I can't tell you how many trees I have killed printing off pages and pages of powerpoints for my nursing lectures. I have relied heavily on them in every nursing class. Outside the classroom, I have encountered powerpoint at a continuing education critical care conference organized by a local hospital. Every physician, surgeon and nurse presenting at the conference used a powerpoint presentation. I do understand the necessity for powerpoint in nursing. The issues are so complex and can often be easily broken down into simple categories such as assessment, diagnostics, treatment. The simplicity of a powerpoint presentation can be much easier to understand than dense textbooks or research articles.

So it may be necessary sometimes, but is powerpoint an effective teaching method? I am typically an A/A- student, but I have all too often studied hours and hours for nursing exams and not done well on them. What did I use to study in these instances? Powerpoint. Finally this academic year, I have cut down on study time and improved my test taking skills by using concept maps. With med-surg and oncology clinicals junior year, we had to complete concept maps as a part of our clinical paperwork. I had excellent professors that were difficult graders on these, but now that I look back their feedback and teaching with the concept maps helped develop my critical thinking skills. The outline we used junior year was basic, and already designed by our professors. It required you to fill in the primary diagnosis, assessments that are necessary for that diagnosis, and the previous medical history. Then you had to fill out four boxes with a nursing diagnosis, priority of that diagnosis, and the specific assessment data from the patient. This method was often effective in learning how to break down and prioritize assessments and interventions for patients with multiple diagnoses.

My professors last semester taught us how to use concept maps in a more complex way for learning lecture and clinical material. The lecture was advanced med-surg, so the content was very complex. We used concept maps mostly when reviewing for exams. This allowed my peers and me to interconnect topics-both recent and older course content. Concept maps forced me to critically think about the lecture content. In contrast, powerpoint often led to me dozing off, even in spite of excellent professors and very interesting content (ARDS, MI, trauma, etc.). The pictures are of a couple of my own concept maps from studying last semester. Please keep in mind these were probably done between 2 and 3 in the morning....

A literature review-on the significance of concept mapping- entitled "Concept mapping: an effective, active teaching-learning method" was published in Nursing Education Perspectives in 2006. Clayton concludes, "Despite the limitations in these studies, it seems apparent that concept mapping has the potential to be an effective teaching strategy in nursing education." Hopefully more studies on the effectiveness of concept maps in nursing education will be completed in the near future. Until then, I challenge you to fight against the dullness of powerpoint. Critical thinking is essential to excellence in nursing, so for your next continuing education hours or nursing class, go beyond bullet points on a powerpoint slide.