Evidence-Based Program Requirements: Evaluation of Statistics as a Required Course

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT A retrospective student record review was conducted to determine how achievement in a prerequisite statistics course related to achievement in nursing research courses and the overall program for undergraduate and graduate nursing students. For undergraduate students (n = 218 generic, n = III RN/BS),the statistics grade was associated with 4.3 percent of the variance in research course grades and 6.8 percent of the variance in graduating grade point average (GPA), controlling for entering GPA. For students in accelerated second-degree programs (n = 33), there were minimal differences in mean research course grades and graduating GPA between students with and without prior statistics courses. For master's degree students (n =160), higher statistics grades were not associated with graduate research course grades. At best, the amount of prediction associated with statistics course grades was found to be small and not educationally meaningful. The value of statistics as a program requirement for undergraduate or graduate nursing students cannot be supported by these analyses.

Key Words Statistics--Prerequisite--Curriculum Evaluation--Evidence--Research Course

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FOR NURSING EDUCATION TO BE EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT, it is important to remove barriers that block access to nursing education programs. Prerequisite coursework, which adds to the expense and effort involved in applying to a nursing education program, must be evaluated in terms of its contributions to student success. Presumably, the intent of a course required for admission is to ensure that all admitted students have sufficient basic knowledge in a specific area to allow them to develop the desired outcomes of a program from the learning opportunities provided. In addition, performance in a course taken before entry into the nursing program may be viewed as an important predictor of success in the program, whether or not the knowledge acquired is essential to achieving the desired outcomes.

As baccalaureate- and master's-prepared nurses are expected to be intelligent consumers of research, university-based nursing education programs may require an introductory course in statistics as an entry or program requirement at the undergraduate and/or graduate level, typically as a prerequisite to formal coursework in nursing research. The justification is that students need a working knowledge of statistics in order to read and critically appraise quantitative nursing research literature. (See Sidebar for a review of the literature.)

Curricular and outcome standards from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, and the Bureau of Health Professions Division of Nursing identify statistical interpretation and research application as an outcome but do not specify the process by which that outcome should be achieved (1-3). This article reports on an analysis of student records conducted at the University of Rochester School of Nursing to evaluate statistics as a required course for students. The authors formulated the following research questions:

* Does performance in a required course in statistics relate to successful completion of a nursing research course?

* Does performance in a required course in statistics predict successful completion of a nursing program?

Conceptualizing the Study Prior to conducting this research study, the authors surveyed deans and directors of schools of nursing in the state of New York about the statistics content of their programs. Responses were received from 13 programs (33 percent) as follows: of 11 generic BSN programs, 10 include a statistics course; one requires statistics for admission. Twelve of 13 RN to BS completion programs include a statistics course; one requires statistics for admission. Two schools reported having accelerated BSN programs for non-nurses with another baccalaureate degree; both include a required statistics course. …