The role of a practice model in professional education: The case of nursing

Anne Sievert, Seth Chaiklin

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalAbstractResearchpeer-review


The three-fold purpose of this paper is to (a) present a theoretical argument about the role of models in professional education (drawing upon ideas developed by Davydov), (b) argue for the need for a general model of a profession’s practice within that education, and (c) present the results of our attempt to formulate such a general model for nursing practice. As part of his work on developing a general approach for subject-matter teaching for schoolchildren, Vasili Davydov elaborated the importance of using models as a way of developing theoretical thinking (i.e., understanding the general, abstract relations that organise a phenomenon and the capabilities to relate these general relations to concrete situations, known as ‘rising from the abstract to the concrete’). Given that theoretical thinking can (or should) be found in many other spheres of practice than primary education, it is obvious that model-based educational approaches could also be appropriate in professional education. However, there is an additional critical feature in professional education not found in primary education, namely that the professional student is preparing for a professional practice, where, in principle, each particular subject or topic in the education should be relevant (in some way) to that future practice. An essential problem, for both the student and the teacher, in professional education is to integrate all the topics of this education. In our view, this requires the formulation of a model of the professional practice for which students are being prepared. Without such a model, how will teachers be able to show the connections between specific topics and the practice in general, and how will students be able to relate specific topics? In our case, we focus on nursing as the professional practice, and the use of models in nursing education. While one can find so-called models of nursing practice within the professional literature on nursing and nursing education, these presentations often do little more than assemble the topics or issues that must be confronted in a practice; they do not reveal or provide the key feature of a model in the sense developed by Davydov (namely the inner connections, tensions and contradictions that provide the dynamic transformations in underlying relations, which can be used to interpret and explain concrete situations). Drawing on principles from theory of activity (e.g., activity is organised to produce objects that satisfy societal need), we have started to develop such a model for nursing practice. The key general relations in the model are between ‘conditions’, ‘wants’, and ‘resources’. We illustrate how these abstract concepts provide a general model for understanding nursing practice, and give a tool for both teachers and nursing students to relate specific topics in the nursing education to the practice of nursing. We conclude with some illustrations of how this model can be used in teaching specific topics within the nursing education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventISCAR 2008 - , United States
Duration: 8 Sep 200813 Sep 2008


ConferenceISCAR 2008
Country/TerritoryUnited States

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