Improving Student Learning – For the 21st Century Learner

The 17th Improving Student Learning Symposium, Imperial College London, UK, 7 –9 September 2009.

Linking assessment to learning for authentic practice: Rethinking assessment for the science modules in a 1st year nursing programme

Jane Stewart Victor Fester and Gudrun Dannenfeldt, Waikato Institute of Technology

Research seminar

Themes: assessment methods

Monday 7 September 2009, 15.45 - 16.45 in room 121

Science education research literature suggests that the decontextualised nature of much science learning can be an obstacle to many learners, especially when they cannot see a clear purpose for learning that is personally challenging.  Drawing from theories of situated cognition, a 2006-2008 research project completed at Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), Hamilton NZ, aimed to contextualise science teaching for nursing.  Including rich human biology narratives as teaching materials was one of the strategies used in the research.  This project found that although student engagement with science increased, this did not translate into improved academic achievement.  Greater engagement, it seems, is necessary but not sufficient to improve achievement, at least in terms of the traditional way in which this was assessed. 

This year, as a consequence of the continuing high failure rate (30%) for first year students, the research team embarked on a second research project. The aim is to explore ways of matching assessment with the innovative changes the team made to their pedagogy and curriculum.  Around the same time, the Nursing Council of New Zealand prescribed competencies to be demonstrated by graduating nursing students. These competencies are generic across nursing learning contexts.  The science team have to work out what they mean for their practice. 

Putting these two threads together, the current research is investigating the following four interlinked questions:

  1. What does competence mean in the context of nursing education?
  2. What do science-informed competencies look like for nursing education?
  3. What types of evidence will show that students are strengthening a selected aspect of science-informed competency?
  4. What are the ways that this evidence could be gathered?

The research seminar will present the preliminary findings from our experimentation with assessment of science informed competencies for first year nursing science, and the types of evidence that could demonstrate the identified links between science learning and nursing practice.  We would like to hear other people’s views of the interpretation of competency we are exploring and to share ideas about innovative assessment tools designed to assess whether students have made links between their pre-service science learning and an area of professional practice.