Theory of Norm-Criticism for Nursing Education

Contributor: Caitlin Nye
March 4, 2023

Authors – Caitlin M. Nye, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CHSE; Ellinor Tengelin, PhD, and Darryl Somayaji, PhD, CNS, RN, CCRC

Year First Published – 2022
© 2023 Nye
Major Concepts
  • Norms
  • Power
  • Othering
  • Critical reflexivity
  • Anti-oppression
  • Education

Theoretical framework. This is a framework with which nursing scholars can conduct research, and which also has applications in pedagogical praxis.


Norm-criticism is a theoretical framework that seeks to both reveal and interrupt the hidden “gears” of norms, power, and othering, functioning similarly to the hidden gears behind a clock face, to reinforce and reify inequity. These gears turn synchronously, hidden from view, characterized by a seamless and dynamic interlockingness that makes their movement seem both normative and inevitable. This theory’s application to nursing education is a relatively recent but important innovation as it provides the concepts and mechanism– the “equal and opposite force” of critical reflexivity– to disrupt the turning of the gears and therefore the taken-for-granted normativity of critical, structural injustices in nursing education.

Primary Source

Nye, C. M., Tengelin, E., & Somayaji, D. (2022). Developing a theory of norm-criticism in nursing education. Advances in Nursing Science, DOI: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000440

About the Authors

Caitlin M. Nye, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CHSE

Assistant Professor at the SUNY Upstate Medical University College of Nursing. At the time this theory was published, she was a 4th year PhD student at the SUNY University at Buffalo School of Nursing. She holds a MSN in Nursing Education from Drexel University and a BSN from the University of Pennsylvania. Caitlin’s intended doctoral research focuses on the knowledge, beliefs and experiences of pre-licensure nursing faculty for including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) topics in their curricula and teaching practices. Her goal is for faculty members to translate knowledge, preparedness, and self-efficacy into action in their classrooms, labs, and clinical teaching to increase cultural safety for LGBTQ+ patients, students and colleagues.

Ellinor Tengelin, PhD

Senior Lecturer at Mid-Sweden University, Department of Health Sciences, Sweden. With a background in public health, her research interests revolve around the manifestation of power in health, healthcare, and health education – and what can be done about health inequities. Her dissertation was about the pedagogical philosophy of norm criticism and its place in nursing education, and she wants to contribute to the development of norm criticism as a theoretical approach in nursing science.

Darryl Somayaji, PhD, CNS, RN, CCRC

Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Nursing and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Oncology, Cancer Screening & Survivorship at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. She teaches PhD level courses in theory construction and development, philosophy, and dissertation seminar, and a graduate DNP and PhD course “Teaching in Nursing.” Her dissertation work focused on uniting postcolonial, discourse, and linguistic theory to complete an understanding of how individuals use language to construct identity as participants or nonparticipants in cancer research. Her program of research is focused on health disparities in cancer prevention and control