Using student nurses as teachers in inquiry-based learning


  • David Morris MSc RGN RCNT RNT DipN CertEd,

  • Patricia Turnbull MSc BN RGN RNT PGCE

Patricia Turnbull, Anglia Polytechnic University, N202, North Building, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1LL, UK.


Background.  Traditionally, teaching in nurse education colleges and universities in the United Kingdom (UK) has relied substantially on didactic, large group, teacher-led approaches. Emerging literature identifies a shift towards student-centred learning in a variety of formats, such as problem- and enquiry-based learning. These approaches require students to take greater responsibility for both their own learning and that of others. Internationally, and in a number of academic educational disciplines, use of peer-assisted learning, supplemental instruction and peer tutoring as curriculum initiatives has aided improvement in student retention and academic performance. There is, however, a paucity of literature exploring the use of undergraduate student nurses as peer teachers.

Aim.  To explore the viability of using student nurses as teachers in an inquiry-based nursing curriculum and to ascertain the value students place on this teaching and learning method.

Method.  The first phase of the study involved observation of ‘parallel resource sessions’: teacher-led sessions that addressed a theoretical component of the curriculum. In the second phase, student feedback of these sessions to their peers was observed. This was followed by focus group interviews (with a total of 240 participants), which were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings.  The findings suggest that student nurses were uncomfortable with being used as teachers, often questioned the intrinsic worth of this approach as a developmental tool, and considered the responsibility for teaching the content of parallel resource sessions to lie with nurse educators.

Conclusion.  Nurse educators must continue to explore innovative approaches to improve both student nurses’ experience and their fitness for practice. The strategy of using student nurses as teachers may be appropriate in some circumstances but requires further research, considerable support and continual evaluation.