Post-Grant Reports


Using Neuroscience Learning Theory and Visual Strategies to Teach Concepts

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Health and Physical Education | Medical Education | Nursing | Public Health and Community Nursing | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


This faculty development grant enabled the author to present this research at the Western Institute of Nursing 48th Annual Research Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in April 2015.

Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing implemented an integrated, concept-based curriculum in Fall 2011. The pedagogy of teaching and learning in a concept-based curriculum changes the focus on teaching content to the student learning concepts via specifically selected exemplars. In a concept-based curriculum, courses build on foundational concepts so that students will “recognize and understand similarities and recurring characteristics, which can be applied more effectively than memorized facts.” (Giddens, 2013, p. xiii) The students build on theory from didactic courses and will be able to synthesize and integrate their understanding of nursing knowledge to clients encountered in practice.

The Foundations of Community-Based Nursing Practice course introduces and begins to integrate fundamental concepts for the nursing curriculum. The educators in this course use neuroscience learning theory and visual teaching strategies to promote conceptual knowledge acquisition in a way that matches how an individual’s brain processes new information. Using neuroscience learning theory, concepts are presented starting with the whole concept, which is then broken down into specific critical thinking questions about the concept and ends with interventions and evaluation. The examples of the focused concepts are mental status, pain, oxygenation, or disability rather than on the health/illness conditions (diseases) themselves. These concepts are the human responses related to various health/illness conditions. Thinking conceptually about human responses is complicated because of how interrelated they can be. Effective nursing care depends on understanding how to think conceptually. For student learners to accomplish this, educators need to draw from learning theories that facilitate independent thinking and initiative-taking rather than to lecture content to the learner. This conceptual way of teaching combined with the use of visual strategies, such as drawing in real-time, connecting concepts together, and seeing how clients change over time, results in student acquisition of basic conceptual knowledge that they can build on across the course of study. Therefore, visual teaching strategies are the tools which connect these concepts together and also provide a concept map for a visual learner, in particular, for the first-semester nursing students who have little nursing experience. The drawing and writing in real time combined with dialectic coaching help students to develop passion in nursing.


This research was conducted as part of a Linfield College Faculty Development Grant in 2015, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

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