The School of Nursing at King Saud University was established in 1977 as one of the academic departments of the Faculty of Applied Medical Sciences. It was the first program that offered a Bachelor’s degree in nursing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and despite the general lack of demand for medical specialities during that period, the College of Applied Medical Sciences continued to provide these disciplines drawing on the role of King Saud University in satisfying the needs of the Kingdom in providing professionals to handle comprehensive health services and guiding citizen on matters touching on public health. In the year 1988, the university began offering a Master’s program in nursing science and since then, the university has continued to offer world-class education, in fact, a number of persons holding senior positions in Saudi Arabia in the field of nursing were once students at the King Saud University.
School of Nursing Curriculum
The development of the curriculum to be used at the School of Nursing involved various processes with setting out goals in order to cover the curriculum objectives and fulfil the goals of the programs that were to be offered. These processes were essential for the success of the educational goals and all the stakeholders were included so as to get divergent opinions regarding the curriculum’s contents.
The development of a curriculum is a complex and critical issue in Saudi Arabia and the dilemma of who is involved in the process and the knowledge gap of the curriculum development are major factors to be considered. The Ministry of Health, The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, the Ministry of Civil Service, the School of Nursing at King Saud University, students, and parents are all supposed to be involved in the process, unfortunately, this is never the case.
The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCHS) plays a very important government role in supervising and guiding the inclusion of health-related issues in the curriculum. SCHS’s objective is to develop professionalism during curriculum development and encourage skill contribution, scientific intellect, and proper practical application in various health specialities (SCHS, 2010).
A well-laid curriculum should facilitate the realization of the School of Nursing’s mission statement for the undergraduate program, part of which reads, “through distinguished quality education and scientific research, the school of the nursing curriculum was designed to prepare students to be competent in their profession, health organization, and communities and prepare students to improve practice and to incorporate nursing science and health care technology to achieve a high level of quality of patient care.” Effective use of the curriculum should enable students to acquire knowledge, skills, and attitude to provide holistic patient care.
Unfortunately, The School of Nursing at King Saud University offers a Master’s degree in nursing for females only. Hence, the Master’s postgraduate program does not cope with the requirements of the labour market, a problem that can be traced back to the curriculum development process.
The word curriculum has different meanings depending on the context. To some teachers, the curriculum is what the students learn intentionally or not, and to others, it is a system that integrates the aims of the learning process, describes the content to be covered during the process and the learning activities and outlines the evaluation methods to be used. Contrary to popular belief, the objective of the curriculum is not complicated. Taylor proposed that the approach to curriculum involved detailed attention to what people needed to know. The curriculum entails what is taught, and if it is not taught, then it should not be on the curriculum.
Wiggins and MMcTighe’sSea Pie
The government of Saudi Arabia has been keen on encouraging students, particularly those who are gifted, to work hard so that the country can keep up with developed countries in various fields, especially in the field of education. Consequently, it established the King Abdul-Aziz Foundation with was tasked with identifying and educating gifted and creative young persons, both male and female. The objective of this move was to support the nation’s capacity to generate innovative ideas and a quest to find pioneers in science and technology.
Ironically, in a number of education and training institutions, the curriculum does not give consideration to important facets of education that include thinking, adaptation and reflection, critical analysis and innovation, flexibility, and teamwork. These facets are very important and do not merely entail grasping the ideas taught in class, rather, they help one to have the ability to perform specific tasks that are fundamental to traditional systems of education and training.
The teaching method used should be organized according to the purpose of the institution and be in accordance with what the learners already know. In addition, the methods should be linked to the culture of the learners and should be designed to create an effective model that can be distinguished from traditional methods.
The education system used in Saudi Arabia and a number of neighbouring countries stress memorization as the best method of knowledge transfer and uses traditional methods of education such as punishment to ensure that learners grasp what they are taught. This system is referred to as indoctrination and it has a weakness because it does not leave room for the learners to develop an understanding and perception of what they are taught. Besides, learners are not allowed to ask questions.
Indoctrination does not allow information interchange among learners and reduces the teacher’s role in dumping information. This method results in the teacher controlling and dominating the classroom environment and this hampers participation and discussion among students.
According to Wiggins and McTighe, constructivism is not applied and may not exist in classrooms that use an indoctrination approach. There are many factors that play significant roles in inhibiting constructivism. For instance, the culture of the schools in the country. In Saudi Arabia, a majority of schools have adopted the indoctrination method of teaching without knowing its effects. Secondly, the role and the power accorded to teachers in the classroom discourages students from engaging in interactive classroom sessions and hence learners neither understand whatever is taught to them nor do they comprehend its importance. Questions asked by students about the strategies and the use of active techniques are not encouraged as well. Therefore, to correct this scenario, educators should intervene so that students can be helped to construct their knowledge. The teachers should provide and help students with problem solving and questioning techniques so as to develop and encourage them. Such a system would help students to gain an understanding of concepts rather than continue with the traditional method of memorization.
The complexities of the traditional methods of teaching that have been used for decades in schools sometimes tend to depend on memorization, which does not value meaning. The role of the learner is not recognized. It is worth mentioning that this self-directed approach is very ineffective. In addition, what the learners already know and what they want to know to play a significant role in their understanding of the concepts taught in the classroom.
The current nursing program focuses neither on the subject matter nor on student understanding and making meaning out of class activities. This has created a curriculum gap. I believe that the 3S understanding is a way of connecting the subject matter with a student’s environment, i.e. the people and the society. However, an understanding of the 3S approach is currently low and some researchers have said that the nursing program curriculum does not fit in this paradigm (Henderson &Rosemary, 2007). An examination of the graduate nursing school curriculum reveals that the six facets of understanding are absent and this makes it difficult for students to obtain a true understanding of classroom concepts. The designers of the curriculum should revise the current curriculum so that students can know how to apply what they are taught since “understanding involves the appropriate application of concepts and principles to question or problem that is newly posed” (Wiggins).
It is important to note that the process of making students understand what they are taught or analyze the results of an experiment is not currently on top of the list of the curriculum objectives. The supporting materials that have been used traditionally to facilitate understanding are simply ineffective. Teachers must act fast and help students have a true understanding not only of the concepts but also of the expectations and goals of the curriculum (Wiggins). In addition, after graduation, students do not apply thinking, inquiry, and practical approaches because they are not trained on the applicability of what they get in the classroom.
The sense of critical thinking is obviously absent from the curriculum. This means that the students do not develop their critical thinking prowess not only in the classroom but also in the clinical situation. Critical thinking among students is important in understanding any complexities arising out of their nursing practice. The ability of the student to think critically will allow them to examine and solve problems that they face from different perspectives, rather than follow the traditional route. This ability will again allow them to use focused, deliberate thoughts with a mind that is open to different alternatives, different explanations, and possibilities.
In a clinical situation, educational curriculum designers in Saudi Arabia discovered that the nursing program curriculum does not prepare students and nurses to adequately meet the accepted Western standards. This gap opened the door toward reforming the current curriculum to one that would meet the students’ needs in the classroom before they ventured into practical work. Educators and curriculum designers should focus on how to enhance the students’ knowledge and skills not only theoretically, but also practically. In addition, the teacher should play a significant role in encouraging students to understand the causes and reasons of their observations to increase their ability to deal with the complexities of the nursing practice.
Since the curriculum lacks a platform where students can set their goals and connect the subject matter to practical applications, the teachers should develop such a platform while the students should improve their ability to create meaning out of what they learn. The gap between the knowledge gained by the learner and its applicability is simply large. This gap still concerns curriculum designers even with the use of technological tools in education. The positive transfer of the knowledge allows students to work effectively towards solving new or complex problems.
Educators should work together with students to minimize the negative transfer of knowledge. This would enable students to deal with societies’ problems rather than avoid them. The challenge of effecting a positive transfer of knowledge exists in how to adapt and modify the ideas so that students can have a holistic comprehension of the nursing practice since a “student should not be able to solve the new problems and situation by remembering the solution.” The keys to having this comprehension lie in the ability to thoughtfully and actively work while applying critical thinking methodologies. It should be pointed out that both learner-acquired knowledge and skills are important and must be extended beyond the narrow context.
Educators should work with the students to develop and improve their constructivist practices. The application of this process will enhance the teachers’ ability to work towards the students’ knowledge and understanding of classroom concepts. The students should be encouraged to engage more actively in the learning processes.
The curriculum action that I used limited the teachers’ role by using a systematic approach without any further consideration about the student’s creativity. Teachers must not focus on textbooks alone, instead, they should focus on how the students learn and apply what they taught.
Wiggins’s six facets approach does not fit this curriculum action. Under the current curriculum, teachers do not encourage or work with students to develop their ability to develop critical thinking methods. By applying the six facets, students will be able to understand and apply what their teachers impart to them. In order to come up with a good curriculum design, the six facets should be used as an assessment tool and students should be encouraged to give constructive feedback that will help in achieving the desired teaching goal.