#3 – “Dear Abby” in the nursing classroom

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I try to keep these blog entries short. how am I doing?

Dear Abby

From a previous blog, I shared the mantra “it’s not about what the faculty knows; it’s about what the students learn”  and an effective teacher will always take the opportunity to check in with the students to determine how they are doing, through every means possible. exams are only one avenue to evaluate effective teaching.

what if you ask the class a question and nobody answers?

I will write a future blog on the subject of querying the class as a part of lecture style. In some cultures, such as Asian cultures, it is not polite to ask a question of the teacher, and also impolite to blurt something out without a period of silence first. There are ways to engage the class that will overcome this, and here is one.

Also known as a variant of  Nominal Group Process

here is a little exercise I do when there are ten minutes of unfilled time. for example, we once hosted a guest speaker who was ten minutes late due to parking issues, or the time we needed to call to IT to send tech support who would address some computer issue. (hate it when that happens.. I always check out the tech stuff as far in advance as possible)

from Wikipedia;

The nominal group technique is particularly useful:

  • When some group members are much more vocal than others.
  • When some group members think better in silence.
  • When there is concern about some members not participating.
  • When the group does not easily generate quantities of ideas.
  • When all or some group members are new to the team.
  • When the issue is controversial or there is heated conflict.
  • When there is a power-imbalance between facilitator and participants or participants: the structure of the NGT session can balance these out.

hand out 3 x 5 index cards, or scrap pieces of paper.

students writeDear Abby……..” in upper left hand corner.

then “…..what I want to know is___________________”  and pass the cards forward. they are told to write whatever they like – maybe something bothering them, some question about the class schedule or calendar, or any random thing. (one time the prompt was “name a person in the class who you wish to publicly thank for something they did that was nice” but not everyone took that seriously).

a really good one is “the question I was afraid to ask was _________________”

you can also use this to ask a survey question to see if everyone “got it” – such as “….. what is my comfort level with using this skill in clinical?” – the trick is to supply an open-ended prompt.

when they are collected, each statement is read out loud and an off-the-cuff response in given.  As the reader, if somebody writes something inappropriate, you can skip it. You can make the responses as factual, or humorous as you wish.

One variation of this is to ask everyone to get out their cell phone and to text their question directly to the faculty cellphone.  not quite as anonymous.

Nowadays there is technology such as i-clickers that serves to poll the class, and some teachers use it to guide such activities as learning how to read an NCLEX exam question.

hope this gives you a tool you can use.



Filed under classroom management, nursing education

3 responses to “#3 – “Dear Abby” in the nursing classroom

  1. jpacklin

    I really loved how you addressed the nominal group process plus the strong Asian culture present in our clinicals — you told me I’m not allowed to answer any more questions that you asked of the group. Politically incorrect, sure, but I understood the rationale perfectly; I was one of the more vocal (ok the most) but I also needed to satisfy my fragile ego by always being right. You told me I don’t need to verbalize my answer, just wink at you that I know it, so that took care of that issue. At the same time I had been squashing input from some of my Asian class cohorts, who oftentimes will not speak up even when they know the correct answer. This allowed my more quiet classmates an opportunity to speak up, in fact forced them to do so since they could no longer turn to me to be the spokesperson.
    Eccentric, elegant, and effective.

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