Puzzle Pieces

One year for Christmas, I bought my mother-in-law a 500-piece puzzle of the nativity scene and an empty photo frame.  She loves to put puzzles together and often has one laid out on her living room coffee table during the winter months of the year.  My idea was that once she had the puzzle together she could seal it with adhesive, put it in the frame and have a beautiful piece of art to display in their family room for the holiday season.  What a hit it was! She loved it!

Being a nurse educator reminds me of a puzzle.  There are many pieces that make up the picture and until you have them all put into the correct place the picture may not be completely clear.  Each learner could be compared to the different pieces making up the puzzle. The learners we encounter have many different backgrounds.  They have life events that have shaped them into the person they are.  Some puzzle pieces make up the edges of the puzzle while others make up the middle.  No two puzzle pieces are the same shape. Our learners are no different!! 

Another important factor is that people learn differently.  Learning styles include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  I personally am a kinesthetic learner.  I think of myself as a “do-er”.  I can read something 50 times but it doesn’t really start to sink into my brain until I actually do it.  Different learning styles are like the different ridges on the puzzle pieces.  Each piece is unique, just like each learner.  As the educator, we must find a way to engage all types of learners.  This means we get to use our creative energy to find ways to incorporate different types of styles into each lesson.  Sometimes you might use Power Point and a case study.  Maybe before the next class they must listen to an online discussion about the content and then in class they complete a simulation exercise. This type of variety allows all learners to be reached by whichever method speaks to them the most, while also allowing them to grow in areas of learning they might be not as strong in. 

Every learner will have a different learning plan and pathway they follow.  One way isn’t more correct than the other, it’s just different.  It doesn’t matter if you put the entire outer edge of the puzzle together first and then go back and fill in the middle or if you choose to go from one side to the other.  The outcome is still the same, you finish the puzzle! As the educator you get to watch the puzzle progress from a bunch of pieces in the box to a beautiful work of art.  Just like putting together a puzzle, teaching takes patience and dedication. I can assure you, the time and effort is well worth the outcome!

Are you interested in impacting the lives of future nurses by becoming a nurse educator? Learn more about earning your online Master of Science in Nursing - Nurse Educator degree from Walsh University.

About the Author


My name is Colleen Wiley and I am a nurse educator. Growing up I always wanted to be a teacher, but I also had an interest in learning about science. I have always loved helping people which is why I chose to pursue a career in nursing. I spent my time in undergraduate nursing school working as a nurse intern on a medical surgical unit. After graduation in 2005, I worked at the bedside caring for post-operative patients and I loved it! Eventually, I started offering to train new employees and I would also take on nursing students for their clinical preceptorship. It was then that I truly realized my real passion was seeded in becoming a nurse educator! I started working as an adjunct clinical instructor in 2010 and immediately knew this was the path for me. A fire was lit inside of me! That burning feeling of helping others was reignited as I shifted my focus from helping sick and/or recovering patients in the acute setting to helping students learn how to become a nurse. I pursued a graduate degree in nursing education which I earned in December of 2014. I have been working as a nurse educator ever since I took that first leap back in 2010.

Contact Us

Social Media