Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

ASSESSMENT AND GRADING PRACTICES in Schools of Nursing: National Survey Findings Part I

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

ASSESSMENT AND GRADING PRACTICES in Schools of Nursing: National Survey Findings Part I

Article excerpt



In fall 2007, the Evaluation of Learning Advisory Council of the National League for Nursing conducted a survey on the assessment and evaluation strategies and grading practices used by nurse faculty in prelicensure RN programs. This article describes how faculty evaluate student learning in the cognitive and affective domains and factors that influence their decisions about assessment and grading. A 29-item web-based survey was completed by 1,573 nurse faculty from all types of prelicensure programs. In decisions about assessment methods and grading in courses, the school's NCLEX-RN® pass rate was the most important consideration. Papers, group/collaborative projects, case study analyses, care plans, teacher-made tests, standardized tests, and students' self-assessment were used most frequently (> 50 percent) for evaluating learning in the cognitive domain. The main strategy used to assess students' values was observation as students interacted with patients and families (n = 1,051,67 percent) and others (students, faculty, and clinical team members) (n = 845, 54 percent) in the health care setting.

Key Words Evaluation - Assessment - Grading - Nursing Education -Nurse Faculty - Nursing Students

Nurse educators make important decisions about students: whom to admit to a nursing program; which students will progress through the program; and, ultimately, who will graduate from the program. Decisions of this magnitude need to be based on sound and reliable information. Teachers cannot make good decisions about student learning and professional development without good information.

Assessment is the process of collecting information about students' learning and clinical performance over time, generally by using multiple strategies. Assessment data suggest areas in which students need more instruction and verify the outcomes of learning that students have achieved. These data also provide feedback to the teacher about educational practices and their effectiveness in guiding students' learning. Effective assessment is continuous, provides feedback to students, identifies areas of needed improvement, and reinforces learning (Angelo & Cross, 1993; McDonald, 2007; Nugent, 2004; Oermann & Gaberson, 2009).

While assessment strategies provide information about student learning and performance, it is the teacher who needs to decide what the information means. This is the process of evaluation: using information to make value judgments about learning and performance; for example, determining if students met the standards and achieved a certain level of learning in a course. Formative evaluation is not graded, but is used as a diagnostic measure to identify the learning needs of students, provide immediate feedback, and decide on teaching strategies to guide their continued learning (Angelo & Cross, 1993; McDonald, 2007; McTighe & O'Connor, 2005; Oermann & Gaberson, 2009). Formative evaluation promotes students' self-awareness of performance and encourages self-directed learning. Summative evaluation, in contrast, represents the evaluation done by nurse educators at the conclusion of the instruction to determine the extent of knowledge, values, and skills achieved in a course or program. With summative evaluation, grades are assigned reflecting student achievement of the learning outcomes (McDonald; McGonigal, 2006; Oermann & Gaberson).

Nurse educators can use many assessment strategies for a given course: tests (teacher-made and standardized), quizzes, collaborative testing, writing assignments, projects, concept maps, presentations, and contributions to discussions, among others. The decision for use of a particular strategy depends on the outcome or objective being assessed and its complexity; area or domain of learning (cognitive, affective, or psychomotor); setting in which the learning occurs (classroom, online, laboratory, or clinical practice); level and numbers of students; time constraints; and the intent of the assessment. …

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