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Analysis of nursing master's program proposals in the light of Boaventura


Rejane Eleuterio FerreiraI; Cláudia Mara de Melo Tavares II; Gabriela Silva dos SantosIII; Luciana Valadão Alves KebianIV; Pamela da Silva NevesV

I Nurse. PhD student at the Aurora de Afonso Costa Nursing School, Fluminense Federal University. Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. E-mail:
II Nurse. Professor, Aurora de Afonso Costa Nursing School, Fluminense Federal University. Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. E-mail:
III Nurse. PhD student in Nursing at the Anna Nery Nursing School, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. E-mail:
IV Nurse. PhD in Nursing. Professor at the Fluminense Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology. Macaé, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. E-mail:
V Nurse. Master from the Aurora de Afonso Costa Nursing School, Fluminense Federal University. Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. E-mail:





Objective: to reflect on the proposals of master's courses in nursing in Rio de Janeiro State, in view of Boaventura Santos' emerging paradigm concept. Method: in this exploratory descriptive study, based on documentary analysis and interpreted in light of the emerging paradigm concept, seven master's programs in nursing were evaluated in 2015, three of them to a professional master's and four to an academic master's degree. Results: the proposals were observed to offer the opportunity to present knowledge as self-knowledge, in that the scientific production on the courses focuses on professional practice and approximates science to common sense. Conclusion: the emerging paradigm is valued in the programs examined, which contributes to the development of nursing practice.

Keywords: Nursing education; education; graduate; professional practice; nursing.




Graduate nursing courses have grown over time and strengthened nursing science with the consolidation of the knowledge produced1. This expansion of graduate nursing courses stricto sensu in Brazil has also reflected in the training of more qualified and critical professionals, who contribute to the construction and improvement of theoretical thinking and practices in the area. The knowledge derived from this graduate modality strongly influences the progress of the profession, enables the process of knowledge construction, and the creation of new technologies with the aim of improving teaching, autonomy and performance of professionals, involving both care and pedagogical strategies2,3.

Scientific research must be inherent in the nurses' work process, strengthening nursing as a producer of knowledge before the social demands related to the practice in the health sector4. The professional training model needs to be consistent with the role played by nurses, promoting consistent research, innovative results and knowledge for the nursing area5.

Historically, postgraduate studies at Brazilian universities have emphasized the deepening of the knowledge acquired in undergraduate studies, the provision of adequate environment and resources for free scientific investigation, and assurance of the gratuity for the creation of the highest forms of university culture6. This modality of education has already 40 years in Brazil, and there has been a recent increase in the number of courses and programs throughout the country, providing a gradual improvement in the qualification of masters and doctors in the nursing area​​7.

Currently, graduate programs in Brazil aim to consolidate their quality, combat asymmetries and social distortions, and overcome the conservatism of the system. "The motto is: to dare more often, try the new, face the challenges and face the urgencies"8:46.

This improvement has created an expectation for the next decade, which will require highly qualified personnel to keep up with the economic growth projected for Brazil. The National Graduate Plan (PNPG) has created the challenge of equating Brazil with some first world countries by 2020 by investing in the training of doctors9. However, it has been questioned whether such formation is in line with the complexity of the current scientific moment, which has witnessed the transition from the breakdown of the dominant paradigm. Higher education institutions are expected to train nursing professionals committed to quality education, capable of understanding the different historical, social, political and cultural contexts of society10.

Knowledge of natural sciences alone is no longer believed to be enough in the present scenario, since various dilemmas seek answers in other fields, such as the social sciences and common sense.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos is a well-known thinker in graduate programs stricto sensu who discusses this issue in depth. For this author, modern science has suppressed the emergence of different pieces of knowledge to the dominant model, but a set of epistemological interventions denounces this suppression, values ​​the knowledge that has resisted, and seeks the conditions of a horizontal dialogue between different sets of knowledge11. In this sense, an interest to understand how these paradigms are present in the education of new researchers arises.

The objective of this study is to reflect on the proposals of master courses in nursing in the State of Rio de Janeiro, based on the emerging paradigm concept of Boaventura Santos.



Bonaventure addresses the ambiguity and complexity of scientific time, which is in a transitional phase and needs to answer simple, elementary, and intelligible questions to understand the context of the world. We live in a cross of shadows, "shadows that come from the past that we now think we are, and sometimes we think we have not yet ceased to be, shadows that come from the future that we now think we are, and sometimes we think we will never become" 12:46. This view leads to a reflection on the limits of scientific rigor and on the impact of risks and benefits of scientific discoveries that influence the present time.

Since the sixteenth century, the dominant paradigm brings the influence of the natural sciences, which are solely committed to a unique way of seeking true knowledge, based on narrow epistemological methodologies and principles, disregarding other types of empirical knowledge. It was only in the nineteenth century that this model of rationality was extended to the emerging social sciences and came to admit two forms of non-scientific knowledge: common sense and humanistic studies, such as those of historical, philosophical, juridical, and theological nature12.

The crisis of the dominant paradigm is profound, irreversible and unpredictable. There are four theoretical conditions that contributed to this crisis: Einstein's theory of relativity, which revolutionized our conceptions of space and time, showing that there is no universal simultaneity; quantum mechanics, with the demonstration that it is not possible to observe or measure an object without interference from the subject in it, to the extent that the object coming out of a measurement process is not the same as that which entered there; the questioning of mathematical rigor, which demonstrated the scarcity of foundations, since even following the mathematical logic, it is possible to formulate undecidable propositions; and the advance of the knowledge of microphysics, chemistry and biology, demonstrating a new conception of matter and nature, which is hardly aligned with classical physics13.

This scientific movement and the other theoretical innovations that define the crisis of the dominant paradigm have propitiated a deep epistemological reflection on the scientific knowledge. With this, a doubt arises about the epistemological security sustained by the natural sciences and space is created for the valorization of other sets of knowledge12.

In addition, Boaventura defends the need to "encourage locally developed concepts and theories to migrate to other cognitive sites so that they can be used outside their original context"13:77. Based on this, he states that "all knowledge is self-knowledge. Science does not discover anything; it rather creates"13:83.

Science is an autobiography that may be able to know, prevent, and control phenomena. In this way, scientific knowledge aims to become common sense, since common-sense knowledge is vulgar and practical, and everyday life actions are guided by these concepts that give meaning to life13 . However, the opposite also occurs, that is, common sense seeks to incorporate scientific knowledge, and this enrichment is generated from the dialogue14.

In short, Boaventura shows the impacts of the dominant paradigm, pointing to the imminent crisis of this model and leads to the reflection on the emergence of a new paradigm, the emergent one13.



This is a descriptive and exploratory study to investigate an "unknown situation that requires more information. Exploring a reality means identifying its characteristics, its change or its regularity"15: 139.

The technical procedure used was documental research, which consists of identifying, verifying and evaluating documents with a specific purpose, aiming at extracting objective information from the original source16.

Data collection was performed in January 2015. The material collected was the proposals of the master programs in nursing and information contained in the websites of the four public universities in the State of Rio de Janeiro that offer a Master Degree training in Nursing, which are: Rio de Janeiro State University, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Fluminense Federal University, and Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Seven proposals of the master programs in nursing were analyzed, being three professional master programs and four academic master programs.

First, a comparative table of the proposals was built with the following information: focus, principles, objectives, concentration areas, and research lines. Then, the content of the elements contained in the proposals was analyzed in detail in light of the concept of the emerging paradigm, more specifically based on the discussions made from the book A discourse on science13.

The critical-reflexive analysis allowed identifying four thematic categories that consider the conditions that guide the proposal of a current emerging paradigm, namely: natural and social sciences in the masters; theoretical and methodological plurality; theory and practice of knowledge; common sense and science.



Natural and social sciences in the masters

According to Boaventura, one of the milestones of the nineteenth century was the model of scientific rationality to admit the social sciences 12. Today, it is possible to observe in the proposals of master programs the presence of knowledge related to the social sciences in all the evaluated programs.

It was verified that the master's degree brings together scientific and philosophical knowledge. Some courses consider interdisciplinarity, epidemiology, biostatistics and technological innovation as a framework for work and production. One of the courses brings in its proposal the association of health and art to think about care and the innovated and/or created technologies.

In general, the master programs aim to train professionals with a broad and critical view of society, capable of observing the historicity of the educational phenomenon, its limits, and possibilities in the perspective of building collective, interdisciplinary, critical and creative teaching practices. In this sense, the proposals advance towards an emancipatory education, in which knowledge can be constructed in a participatory and collective way17. In this way, the professionals reflect on the commitment to the transformation of reality, in line with the suggested curricular guidelines for nursing undergraduate courses.

The break in the epistemological confidence of the dominant paradigm is produced by a plurality of factors. The great advance that scientific knowledge has had is, paradoxically, a significant factor in this rupture. The identification of limitations such as the structural insufficiency of the scientific paradigm built by Enlightenment modernity was made possible by the great advance of this knowledge18.

Here we see that the dominant paradigm, which brought the influence of the natural sciences, is no longer the only way to seek knowledge. And although the natural sciences still exert influence on researches, social knowledge is valued in the training of masters. Thus, knowledge of the emerging paradigm tends to be a non-dualistic knowledge, a knowledge that is based on overcoming the so familiar and obvious distinctions that until recently were considered insurmountable12.

The distinction between natural and social sciences has lost its meaning, because this separation only puts a limitation on knowledge, and the emerging paradigm tends to end this distance and to merge the two forms of scientific knowledge into a single science12. This new emerging vision is already growing in the master courses, since the deepening of the theoretical-methodological bases of the human, social and biological sciences is among the objectives of the courses. The courses present a psychosocial view of the health-disease-care process.

In this way, a change of the dichotomous view of the natural/social sciences was observed, and this overcoming tends to revalue humanistic studies, confirming Boaventura's thinking when he emphasizes that as the natural sciences come closer to the social sciences, the latter come closer to humanities12. Humanistic studies were a focus of the master proposals analyzed, because ethical precepts, the humanist posture, and full citizenship have been valued and practiced. The courses have been concerned with the insertion of nursing in the labor market, with a critical and social view of the living conditions of the Brazilian population.

Theoretical and methodological plurality

The dominant paradigm, present on the basis of scientific knowledge, operates in the fragmentation of knowledge, that is, each profession has the problem related to its area of ​​knowledge as the only object of study.

Boaventura believes that, in modern science, knowledge advances through specialization. This represents a knowledge divided by subjects, that is, a segregation of knowledge organization oriented to policing the boundaries between subjects and restraining those who want to transpose these boundaries. The author adds that it is now acknowledged that the excessive fragmentation and subjectivization of scientific knowledge makes the scientist a specialized ignorant and this has negative effects12 .

In the emerging paradigm, postmodern fragmentation is transformed from subjectivized into thematic. The themes are galleries where sets of knowledge advance to meet other sets, that is, knowledge advances as its object is expanded12.

The evaluated proposals show that the master courses have adopted this emerging paradigm through a perspective of construction of practices of collective and interdisciplinary teaching to guarantee the theoretical and methodological plurality.

The influence of interdisciplinarity has been pointed out more frequently in the proposals of the professional master programs, whose aim is to articulate professionals from different areas of health and to build a model of thinking and acting. One of the main objectives is to prepare the demand of professionals, strengthening the interdisciplinary philosophy between knowledge sets and practices to produce knowledge not only for the areas of each discipline, but for the clientele that will be served by them.

The fragmentation of knowledge is not piecemeal, but rather thematic as proposed by the emerging paradigm. Professionals have expanded their knowledge based on the contribution of other professionals, and, in this way, they have been able to meet more comprehensively the needs of their clientele.

Theory and practice of knowledge

Bonaventure stresses that with the separation between subject and object, the human values ​​that lead to any action carried out by men are removed; however, sociology attempts to overcome this possible contradiction between the epistemic and the empirical subject. Knowledge must also be self-knowledge, that is, it must undergo self-referencing12. The author also exposes the idea that the subject and the object to be studied are united, creating intimacy between them. The quality of knowledge acquired is greater when it is built with personal satisfaction 12.

In the proposals examined, it was observed that the professional training always aims at scientific production, but such production comes from knowledge - presented in a critical, reflective and transformative way. Nursing seeks to be identified as science, but the emerging paradigm infinitely widens the conception of science. It admits a comprehensive and intimate knowledge. Doubts or uncertainties, seen as limitations by modern science, are fundamental to know the world, which it has to be contemplated rather than controlled11. The production of knowledge in the emerging paradigm is more contemplative, closer to literary and artistic creation13.

Master courses, especially in the professional modality, offer the opportunity to present knowledge as self-knowledge, since its objectives and results are expected to be focused on professional practice. In this way, their questions arise from experiences and observations of the needs for changes, seeking new findings, validated by science. Thus, the master courses bring in the discourse of their objectives the opportunity of individuals to carry out in their studies a scientific appreciation of their thoughts and practical experiences.

Common sense and science

Postmodern science, unlike modern science, does not directly conflict with common sense, but rather tries to dialogue with it, letting itself be penetrated by the form of popular knowledge present in everyday life. Common sense is the way of thinking of society in general. It is practical and pragmatic, reproduced while linked to life trajectories and experiences; it does not result from a practice specifically oriented to produce it and is spontaneously multiplied in everyday life13.

Common sense knowledge tends to be a mystified and mystifying knowledge; however, it has a utopian and liberating dimension that can be amplified through dialogue with scientific knowledge, essentially, the elements exposed by the life experiences of individuals.

The analyzed programs have a close approximation with common sense knowledge, for the research proposals developed during the course derive from studies about the daily experiences of care. Nurses have approached popular knowledge to better understand and transform the nursing practice.

The rooting of modern science has suppressed common sense and created barriers for health professionals to think beyond the scientific scope, hindering them from seeing the existence of other sets of knowledge. Postmodern science, in turn, provides a comprehensive knowledge, which binds people to an object to be studied13. Therefore, it is important that the master proposals have a dialogue about the different forms of knowledge, stimulating different contributions on the same object 19.

The contact between the researcher and the subject, when he or she makes a juxtaposition of both and creates bonds of trust, demystifies the role of the professional-researcher as the sole holder of knowledge, thus conforming to the emerging paradigm of postmodern science. By rehabilitating the common sense formerly repelled by scientific modernity, it recognizes in this modality of knowledge, virtues that can enrich our relationship with the world12.



The study allowed us to conclude that Boaventura's thinking is present in the master proposals in nursing, because the emerging paradigm reflected by the author was evident in the evaluated programs. The separation between science and common sense, experience and everyday life, is increasingly tenuous.

It was observed that knowledge related to the field of social sciences is present in all the master programs analyzed. The social sciences have been associated with the study of the natural sciences through philosophy and psychology.

Specialized knowledge has become closer to the more integrative perspective of knowledge by the valuation of the interdisciplinary perspective, whose goal is to articulate professionals from different areas of health with the intention of building a more far-reaching model of thinking and acting.

The emerging paradigm is observed in the sense that the master courses offer the opportunity to present knowledge as self-knowledge, and the scientific production is turned to the practice of the professionals. Scientific research has also brought science and common-sense knowledge closer to each other; because of their greater proximity to patients, nurses have better mechanisms of dissemination and sharing of scientific knowledge.

Although the proposals of the courses presented Boaventura's perspectives on the emerging paradigm, its presence in the practical field of education can not yet be affirmed, and the present study had access only to the information contained in the website, without access to the professors' class plans, and did not carry out field research. However, the fact that they point to features consistent with the emerging paradigm indicates a concern of the courses in overcoming the barriers of the dominant paradigm.

The study was limited to proposals of master's degree courses in nursing in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Further studies aimed at a reflection on the emergent politics are recommended, gathering other data, perspectives and perceptions, since this thematic revealed novel findings and is little discussed in the scientific environment.



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