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How to Improve Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Education

Assessment and evaluation of a student’s learning and progress are critical in any classroom — not just nursing. However, nurse educators must follow specific assessment and learning measurement tools for effective education and patient safety. Whether in the classroom, student clinical rotations, skills labs, clinical nurse educator roles, staff development programs, preceptorships or internships or other nursing education areas, there’s room to improve systems of assessment and evaluation of the learner.

Graduates of the online registered Nurse (RN) to Master of Science (MS) in Nursing – Nursing Education program from the University of Southern Maine (USM) will gain the necessary assessment and evaluation skills to apply to learning spaces in healthcare.

Two Key Components of Effective Assessment

The first step in the nursing process that many know as APIE (assess, plan, intervene and evaluate) is assessment. While nurses may think this is about developing a plan of care, it also applies to developing educational strategies. Assessment is critical to the success of all forms of education — informal or formal, in-person or online.

Assess readiness to learn and student expectations. Like patient teaching, where nurses assess the person’s readiness to learn, educators must assess the student’s willingness to learn and their expectations. To follow assessment best practices, consider asking the following questions:

  • What made you interested in learning this content?
  • What ability or awareness do you think you need to grow?
  • What do you hope to learn or gain?
  • What is your goal?

In addition to clarifying learner expectations, with this information, educators can tailor their content or emphasize specific points for more learner engagement.

Create learning objectives using Bloom’s Taxonomy. Regardless of the content format or environment, educators must create learning objectives to help guide the learner and set expectations at the end of the teaching. Each objective starts with an action verb for the learner. Here are some examples:

  • Identify situations that may threaten your professional boundaries.
  • Outline talking points for patient and caregiver education on thrombocytopenic precautions.
  • Demonstrate proper sterile technique during central venous catheter care.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, commonly known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, is a framework that provides a common language for educators to classify six different levels of complexity and specificity for learning objectives. The action verbs at the beginning of each learning objective depend on the category or level of learning expectation. The most basic level is remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. Of course, every learning objective must be measurable.

3 Common Evaluation Tools

Established, well-studied tools can help nurse educators objectively evaluate learners.

  1. A rubric is a scoring tool, often in a grid format, to assess learning or performance. Analytic rubrics help connect learning outcomes with learning assessment and measurement. By using specific criteria and clearly outlined levels of accomplishments, they can establish more effective, objective grading or assessment. Critical components of a rubric include the assessment criteria, ratings like descriptors or numbers and descriptions for each level.

For skills, the steps of a procedure (like nasogastric tube insertion) can form the rubric framework. Although a rubric measurement is an effective and efficient tool for objective and consistent assessment, it does not always capture some of the personal elements of nursing, such as effective communication and people skills, application of knowledge and critical thinking skills.

  1. SBAR tool. Communication is the backbone of any situation, especially for nurses. The SBAR tool is a framework for effective communication — situation, background, assessment and recommendation. For example, nurses must know how to use the proven SBAR communication technique to notify the provider of a change in condition. Yet, SBAR can be an effective tool in most clinical and non-clinical settings. For example, in education, it helps the learner focus on the concern and structure their thoughts and benefits the educator by providing a framework to assess critical-thinking skills.
  2. Outcomes measurements. To measure baseline learner status and progress in learning, educators can use outcomes measurements for a numeric score to assess changes in knowledge over time, often using Likert scales pre- and post-education.

The following is an example of a Likert scale: Please rate your confidence on the following item prior to education on a 6-point scale where 6 = Very confident and 1 = Not at all confident.

Answering patient and caregiver questions about active bleeding.

1                           2                           3                           4                           5                          6

Not                                                                                                                                         Very

Confident                                                                                                                              Confident

These tools work best as specific measurements from needs assessments, knowledge gaps, safety metrics, nursing leadership concerns and aligning with the learning objectives.

The USM’s RN to MS in Nursing – Nursing Education online program prepares students for various nursing education roles by equipping them with the most effective methods for assessment and evaluation. Two core curriculum courses, Foundations of Nursing Education and Methods of Education in Nursing, along with Education Practicum and Seminar, blend education and practical experience to help graduates better prepare the nurses of tomorrow.

Learn more about the University of Southern Maine’s RN to MS in Nursing – Nursing Education online program.

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