Despite attempts to increase enrollment of minority nursing students, retention while in the traditional pre-licensure nursing programs remains a problem. Increased rates of minority student attrition have been attributed to several factors. Multiple research studies that cite lack of academic preparation as a key factor contributing to increased rates of attrition among minority (Martinez, Sher, Krull, & Wood, 2009; The Sullivan Commission, 2004). Additionally, researchers from Brown and Marshall (2008) noted poor test taking skills caused increased levels of attrition among minority baccalaureate nursing students. Lofton, Newman, Dumas, Gilden, and Bond (2012) reported that a lack of consistent documentation regarding attrition rates and that some have estimated attrition rates for minority nursing students to as high as 85%. Clearly, the learning needs of minority baccalaureate degree nursing students are not being met. It is evident that nursing educators need to focus more on retention strategies for minority student populations.
One method of increasing minority student retention is a shift in pedagogical approach away from the traditional nursing education of low-context pedagogy: reading assignments, lectures, and examinations. This approach may not meet the needs of minority student populations (Bednarz, Schim, & Doorenbos, 2010). Research conducted by Giddens (2008) cited that the creation of a student-centered pedagogy based on Ibarra’s Theory of Multi-Contextual Learning may be one means of addressing minority student retention. This theory purports that the incongruence between student learning preferences and faculty teaching methods is problematic. Students from diverse cultural backgrounds typically prefer high-context learning environments, such as telling stories, using case studies and simulation, and opportunities to learn together in groups.
A qualitative study was designed to assess minority students’ perceptions of learning in a multi-contextual teaching/learning environment. Minority was defined as someone who is a member of an ethnic or racial minority group and enrolled in a baccalaureate program of nursing. The study took place in a single-purpose, private, Catholic nursing college in a single academic semester. Appropriate IRB approvals were obtained. Six minority students were recruited and completed a semi-structured interview of their perceptions of the multi-contextual teaching/learning environment. Some of the qualitative data themes arising from the student interviews were: (1) preference for group work, (2) appreciation of personalized, student-centered, active teaching/learning strategies, and (3) preference for rapid application of knowledge. This data points to the positive impact of multi-contextual teaching/learning environments on pre-licensure minority nursing student perceptions of learning.
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