Intellectual Curiosity

Posted on May 21, 2013 by


This week we introduce a new “Editor’s Pick” article titled  “Intellectual Curiosity: A Principle-Based Concept Analysis” by Bedelia Russell,  MSN, RN, CPNP-PC, CNE.  She has shared the background about her work with us, providing insight into the influences on her thinking including her daughter’s drawing!

If someone had told me when I began doctoral work I would not only contribute to ANS but also participate in the ANS blog, I would have questioned their sanity. I am so honored to be among all these other respected contributors. I began my doctoral work in 2010 following nine years of work as a fulltime faculty… I was the last Master’s prepared nurse to be tenured in our system so tenure was not a variable in my return to graduate school. Why then consider the daunting task of PhD work? When I reflect back, I guess I am guilty of the very subject of my article… intellectual curiosity. Around me… everyone was going back to school… newer faculty with eyes on tenure had made the commitment and I was continuing on in my role as a well-respected educator. But the pressure was there… internally, some external… to join in, and admittedly, I was curious. Could I do the work? Bedelia RussellHow would I balance family? Would I finish? How would I continue to do my job… my job … it was then it hit me… my pull towards PhD work, my motivation, was my job… I had hit a plateau in course redesign and I was asking questions and approaching nursing education with questions that no one around me could answer. It occurred to me that maybe doctoral study would help with those questions and provide new insights into my practice of nursing education.

Intellectual curiosity is something I have for many years evaluated baccalaureate students on… they either demonstrated it or they did not… and I knew what that looked like. So when my first concepts class in my doctoral program required a concept analysis, my cohort talked me into analysis of intellectual curiosity. I remember us all trying to decide on our concept and throwing out ideas to each other. When intellectual curiosity was suggested, it was followed by my peers adding, that should “be easy” and there should be “plenty of information out there.” I have both thanked them and cursed them since those days of convincing me but would not for one day regret the path that seemingly simple decision has led me down.

My work so far has revealed two things. The first is concept analysis that can provide context and understanding of the existing state of the concept is important to advance the science of our discipline. It is in part why I utilized a principle-based concept analysis method. I do not believe it is enough to simply breakdown a concept into its elements… we need to take that concept and look at it from multiple perspectives… multiple disciplines… and then see how our discipline can utilize it. The second revelation is that while I knew what intellectual curiosity looked like… albeit, merely from my perspective… I was unaware of the possible influencing variables and potential consequences for intellectual curiosity.

I am now intrigued with the role it seems motivation has in relation to curiosity. I am left to wonder what our role should be as nurse educators in influencing and modeling the concept of intellectual curiosity and can we perpetuate curiosity once is has occurred.

An important lesson from our first semester philosophy class was to determine our philosophy of science. It was an arduous discovery of finding out I aligned with interpretive inquiry, specifically with Heidegger’s assertions on phenomenology. This view was cemented in a drawing my youngest daughter made at that time, included here.

drawingWhen I asked my four year old daughter where her eyes, nose, and mouth were, her response was “Mommy, I am looking at the clouds…. You are looking at the back of my head.”  This picture is now a bit faded but still hangs on my wall beside my desk. It serves as a reminder on the importance of context, history, and multiple perspectives… something important in examination of the concept of intellectual curiosity in my work ahead. Going forward, my dissertation will look at intellectual curiosity from the perspectives of educators who teach in online learning environments. I welcome your comments on my current work and am both humbled and appreciative of this opportunity for dialogue.

You can download a copy of this article now, while it is featured on the ANS web site!  Then, leave your comments here to discuss your thoughts with the author!