Evaluation of Higher-Level Learning, Problem Solving, and Critical Thinking: Context-Dependent Item Sets and Other Evaluation Strategies
In preparing students to meet the needs of patients within the changing health care system, educators are faced with identifying essential content to teach in the nursing program. Mastery of this knowledge alone is not enough, however. Students also need to develop cognitive skills for processing and analyzing information, comparing different approaches, weighing alternatives, and arriving at sound conclusions and decisions. These cognitive skills include, among others, the ability to apply concepts and theories to new situations, problem solving, and critical thinking. The purpose of this chapter is to present strategies for evaluating these higher levels of learning in nursing.
One of the concepts presented in Chapter 1 was that learning outcomes can be organized in a cognitive hierarchy or taxonomy, with each level representing more complex learning than the previous. Learning extends from simple recall and comprehension, which are lower-level cognitive behaviors, to higher-level thinking skills. Higher-level cognitive skills include application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. With higher-level thinking, students apply concepts, theories, and other forms of knowledge to new situations, use that knowledge to solve patient and other types of problems, and arrive at rational and well-thoughtout decisions about actions to take.