BSN Graduates' Perceptions of Liberal Learning

Wednesday, July 13, 2011: 1:45 PM

Mary Hermann, RN, MSN, EdD
Barbara Jones, PhD, RN
School of Nursing, Gwynedd-Mercy College, Gwynedd Valley, PA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to recognize the connections between global and liberal learning.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to discuss teaching and learning strategies to strengthen liberal- learning connections.


The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the meaning of the lived- experience of recent Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates in a curriculum grounded in a liberal education. Global learning requires a solid curricular base in liberal education including an understanding of the relationships between local and global environments (Stearns, 2010).

Methods:  The phenomenological psychological philosophy of Paul Colaizzi (1978) provided the theoretical foundation for this study and guidance in the research methods. Dialogal interviews were utilized to collect qualitative data for the study.  The interviews of twelve recent BSN graduates enrolled in a (ASN to BSN) program were audiotaped face to face, transcribed and interpreted for meaning. The three themes that emerged were“unclear of the meaning of liberal education”, “usefulness of liberal education”, and “descriptions of learning”.


Results from the study revealed that even though participants were unclear of the meaning of liberal education, they accepted that this was an important part of the curriculum that they “needed to get through”.  Overall, participants explained that the learning from discrete liberal education courses was valued but did not comment that their nursing faculty connected this liberal learning with relationships to local and global issues and professional nursing education courses. Furthermore, for the most part, the usefulness of the liberal education courses was perceived “after the fact” and generally valued for their perceived relevance to nursing. According to some of the participants, their learning involved questioning some pre-existing assumptions and biases.


In conclusion, some recent graduate nurses were able to articulate the values of liberal education including connections to local and global learning after they understood the meaning of the term.   The study contributes to the nursing and higher education pedagogical literature and suggests curricular recommendations for strengthening liberal- global learning connections.