Science-Based Occupations and the Science Curriculum: Concepts of Evidence

2004. Author: GLEN S. AIKENHEAD College of Education, University of Saskatchewan

What science-related knowledge is actually used by nurses in their day-to-day clinical reasoning when attending patients? The study investigated the knowledge-in-use of six acute-care nurses in a hospital surgical unit. It was found that the nurses mainly drew upon their professional knowledge of nursing and upon their procedural understanding that included a common core of “concepts of evidence” (concepts implicitly applied to the evaluation of data and the evaluation of evidence—the focus of this research). This core included validity triangulation, normalcy range, accuracy, and a general predilection for direct sensual access to a phenomenon over indirect machine-managed access. A cluster of emotion-related concepts of evidence (e.g. cultural sensitivity) was also discovered. These results add to a compendium of concepts of evidence published in the literature. Only a small proportion of nurses (one of the six nurses in the study) used canonical science content in their clinical reasoning, a result consistent with other research. This study also confirms earlier research on employees in science-rich workplaces in general, and on professional development programs for nurses specifically: canonical science content found in a typical science curriculum (e.g. high school physics) does not appear relevant to many nurses’ knowledge-in-use. These findings support a curriculum policy that gives emphasis to students learning how to learn science content as required by an authentic everyday or workplace context, and to students learning concepts of evidence.