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Nursing Education and Inclusive Learning Environment, Classroom Dynamics and Microaggressions

Inclusive Learning Environment In Nursing Education, Classroom Dynamics In Nursing Education, Microaggressions In Nursing Education.

Inclusive Learning Environment In Nursing Education

    Learning environments can be unequal power spaces, but when faculty adopt an “inclusive excellence” framework, they view everyone in the academic program or course as a resource on the topic at hand while at the same time recognizing that students’ perspectives will vary based on their personal experience with the topic (Bleich, Mac Williams, & Schmidt, 2014; Pederson Clayton & Pederson Clayton, 2008).

    Inclusive learning environments are places in which thoughtfulness, mutual respect, multiple perspectives, varied experiences, and academic excellence are valued and promoted. This is largely due to the fact that the faculty and students work together to create and sustain an environment in which everyone feels safe, supported, and encouraged to express her or his views and concerns. 

   In the classroom, content is presented in a manner that reduces all students’ experiences of marginalization and, wherever possible, helps students understand that individual experiences, values, and perspectives influence how they construct knowledge in any field or discipline. 

    To create an inclusive learning environment, everyone in the school is responsible for making students feel welcome and comfortable. Managing dynamics that go beyond fitting in if one is different from the majority to messages of belonging and safety are crucial. 

    The admission to schools of nursing of diverse populations of students directly affects factors such as the learning environment of the educational unit (campus wide and the school of nursing), the social environment, and recruitment (and retention). Therefore, concerted efforts must be made to direct interventions that will have positive effects for all students. 

    Because most of the interaction among students and faculty occur in the classroom and clinical agencies, faculty must be prepared to create a learning environment there that is sensitive to the dynamics of student interaction, recognize and manage microaggressions and gender and linguistic biases, and understand racial and ethnic differences in students’ learning style. 

Classroom Dynamics In Nursing Education

    One of the major barriers to learning for minority students is fear of participating in class and experiencing rejection from their classmates. In the classroom, faculty must be aware of students’ backgrounds and response patterns and how classroom norms and rules are forms of power. 

    Payne’s classic book A Framework for Understanding Poverty (2005) is an excellent resource summarizing the major hidden rules the unspoken cues and habits that differ among the classes of poverty, middle class, and wealth. Students who have experienced poverty have at least two sets of behaviors from which to choose one for the street and one for the school or work settings. 

    Students from the middle-class value work and achievement while students from wealth emphasize financial, social, and political connections. When faculty understand these behaviors and the hidden rules and power differentials, they can structure the classroom to overcome these differences.

   Capitalizing on the opportunity from the beginning to create a welcoming environment will neutralize to a great degree the stress that comes with the feeling of not belonging. A caring pedagogy makes allowances for behaviors that are exhibited by students in the classroom even during moments of silence. 

    It is especially important to stay learner-driven and therefore student-centered. This calls for an astute awareness of the adaptations that may be needed while simultaneously complementing participatory learning.

Microaggressions In Nursing Education

   Microaggressions, which are reported to be common, are defined by Sue and colleagues (2007) as “brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights or insults toward people of color” (p. 271). 

    In addition to race, they are reported to be perpetuated on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and ability status. The effect of continuing microaggressions to exclude the person of difference is real. 

    Individuals experiencing these microaggressions have expressed feelings of lessened self-confidence and productivity (Mays, 2009). The implication is for educators to think about any method of verbal exchange so as to eliminate statements that might be perceived as microaggressions.

    When microaggressions occur, faculty or anyone present has the responsibility to manage the incident. The goal is to preserve the dignity of those involved: 

• Be open to discussing, exploring, and clarifying what is felt and seen. In other words, “pay attention to the tension.” 

• Do a check-in. Watch body language and indications that students have checked out. This will do much to engender trust and to positively seal a caring relationship. 

• Offer a simple “I’m sorry,” which is all that may be called for in many instances. 

• Reduce ambiguity and uncertainty, and make the invisible visible. 

• Use the opportunity to educate all members of the community. Education holds one of the primary keys to combating and overcoming the harm that microaggressions deliver. 

• Indicate at the outset that anyone present could unintentionally or intentionally commit these acts, especially through the language we use. 

    Managing the situation when one is involved as either the target or perpetrator requires particular acumen. Faculty and students can be open to exploring the possibility that one has acted in a biased fashion and controlling defensiveness. 

    This involves suspending interpretation of behavior for those who challenge views, and becoming aware of values, biases, and assumptions about human behavior. 

    When faculty or students are working in a team when microaggressions occur, they should manage the process, not the content. This occurs by acknowledging the accuracy of statements when appropriate, helping individuals see the difference between intention and effect, and encouraging individuals to explore how their feelings may be saying something about them and enlisting the aid of others on the team by asking them what they see happening. 

    When courage shows up, it is important for faculty to recognize, validate, and express appreciation for the individual’s willingness to take a risk and to hold a courageous dialogue. By doing so, faculty model healthy relationship behaviors.

 

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