Degree Name

Master of Philosophy


School of Nursing and Midwifery


In practice disciplines such as nursing it is relatively common for students to complain about curriculum content not being directly applicable to what the student perceives to be the reality of practice (Diekelmann, 2004).

A systematic literature search showed scant reference to ‘meaningful and/or engaging teaching’ in nursing education and there is no agreed terminology used to express these concepts or to facilitate finding material on them. However, there is an international interest in the need for educators to move away from the more traditional passive, didactic approaches to teaching.

An exploratory qualitative study was undertaken with the aim of establishing ‘how nurse educators seek to make their teaching meaningful and engaging for students’. Thirteen nurse educators were interviewed. Having reached a common understanding of terminology, they were then asked to talk about how they, as nurse educators, seek to make their teaching meaningful and engaging, and why they do it. Finally, they were asked to identify how they know that such techniques work.

Data was collected via audio-recording of the interviews. Common terminology was identified and techniques seen to be effective for maximising the meaningfulness and engagement of teaching/learning, for students, were categorised thematically post facto.

The key findings of the research identified by the participants in the study reported a clear difference between the two terms ‘meaningful teaching’ and ‘engaging teaching’. The former was perceived as an attempt to make teaching relevant and the latter an attempt to capture student interest and curiosity. This clarity of distinction was not articulated in the literature sourced and leads to an identified need for clearer definitions of ‘meaningful’ and ‘engaging’ teaching.

Participants clearly attempted to make their teaching meaningful through the use of a variety of teaching strategies, including the use of clinical simulation, and by being clinically credible. Participants also employed a variety of teaching techniques, including the use of games and art as well as classroom management techniques, in an attempt to engage students.

The findings from this study regarding nurse educators’ attempts to make content relevant and interesting are mirrored in the literature, in that typically papers are mostly poorly evaluated, small-scale projects, undertaken in apparent ignorance of other work that has been done in the area. Little has also been done in relation to examining the views of students on their experiences of being taught. This exposes a significant gap in our knowledge about what kind of teaching students prefer and, perhaps more importantly, what approaches to teaching are actually ‘effective’. Thus, further work needs to be done regarding the evidence-base for nurse education in terms of ascertaining ‘what actually works?’ from the nursing students’ perspective.