Is clinical a time for teaching or for evaluation of students? Or for both?
Clinical placement experience should be a time for both teaching and evaluating the students. Clinical placement experience is a chance for nursing students to utilize the skills and theories learned in the laboratory settings and in the classroom. Moreover, this enables the instructor to determine the level to which a student nurse has developed his/her interpersonal skills (Edwards, Chapman & Nash, 2001, p. 199). Clinical placement is also a time for teaching because the various learning environments that the student nurse encounters often involve a lot of learning.
When a time may be a teaching moment and when other times may be an evaluation moment?
In nursing education, a teachable moment refers to the time when a person is ready and willing to learn new information. At the same time, the educator must also be ready and willing to respond to questions raised by the students on the spot. Therefore, teachable moments in nursing education occur when the instructor is able to acknowledge his students’ educational priorities and hence facilitate the learning process into practice (Wagner & Ash, 1998). On the other hand, an evaluation moment in nursing education occurs when the instructor desires to examine the progress made by his/her students in order to assess whether they have attained the objectives set over a given course of assignment (University of Minnesota, 2011).
What to do when a student is not passing the clinical objectives?
When you have a student who is not passing the clinical objectives, it is important for the instructor to try and help the student in question. When it dawns on a student that he/she is not passing his/her clinical objectives, then we can say that a teaching moment has occurred (Lawson & Flocke, 2009). Evaluation needs to occur when so as to reinforce the skills that a nursing student possesses. Through evaluation, an instructor is in a better position to assess the level of understanding of a student regarding the clinical objectives (Oermann & Gaberson, 2009).
Should practicum in undergraduate nursing programs be graded or pass/fail?
Before deciding whether practicum in an undergraduate nursing program should be based on letter grades or if it should be based on pass/fail, we need to consider that evaluation of critical thinking ought to be holistic in nature, taking into account performance from various aspects. Secondly, when we want to promote critical thinking, which you regard as important ought to be rewarded.
Advantages of assessing undergraduate nursing programs as pass/fail
The practicum undergraduate nursing programs are very unique and as such, the pass/fail option is the most ideal strategy to adopt the pass/fail system is a sign that an individual has achieved failed to achieve the desired level of competence (Alfaro-LeFevre, 2009).
- The method has been criticized by opponents as a harsh way of assessing the competency of students (Johnson & Preston, 2001).
- It is a generalized form of grading in that it does not recognize students who have performed exceptionally well. For example, a very strong pass and a very weak pass are all categorized as just pass.
- Students may not be motivated to work very hard since their exceptional work is not likely to be recognized and rewarded based on merit.
Advantages of grading
- Students are likely to be motivated because the more they work harder, the more their chances of getting a better grade (Alfaro-LeFevre, 2009).
- The system is an easier way to differentiate between students who might need additional help to improve their grades. For example, students with Grade D and C can be helped to improve and get Grade A and B.
- Grading is not always the best method to determine the level of competency of students while undertaking nursing programs.
- Based on the foregoing arguments, my position is that practicum undergraduate nursing programs should be based on both the grading system as well as the pass/fail system.
Alfaro-LeFevre, R. (2004). Should clinical course get a better grade? The Critical Thinking Indicator, 1(1), 1-5.
Edwards, H., Chapman, H., & Nash, R. (2001) Evaluating student learning: an Australian case study. Nursing and Health Sciences 3(4), 197-203.
Johnson, D., & Preston, B. (2001). An overview of issues in nursing education. Web.
Lawson, P.J., & Flocke, S. A. (2009). Teachable moments for health behavior: a concept analysis. Patient Educ Couns., 76(1), 25-30.
Oermann, M. H., & Gaberson, K. B. (2009). Evaluation and testing in nursing education. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
University of Minnesota (2011). Evaluation in nursing education. Web.
Wagner, P. S., & Ash, K. L. (1998). Creating the teachable moment. J Nurs Educ, 37(6), 278–280.