Nurse educators generally have three main goals for their students: 1) to learn to critically think in the healthcare setting, 2) to graduate from the nursing program, and 3) to pass NCLEX® on the first attempt.
By Gannon Tagher, EdD, MSN, RN, APRN
Although we have many more goals for our students, these three are paramount to nursing student success. The question remains: “How do we help our students achieve these goals?” Much research in nursing education focuses on the issues of student success in nursing programs as well as on the NCLEX. In an effort to increase success on the NCLEX, many programs instituted standardized testing throughout the curriculum. However, many programs began to use standardized testing as a measure of readiness for progression and graduation, making them high stakes for students and leading to unintended consequences.
Using standardized examinations as a high-stakes measure of content mastery produces psychological and physical anxiety, as well as a myriad of other negative effects on students (Tagher & Robinson, 2015). Rather than implementing high-stakes testing and finding ways to mitigate their negative effects, we should be looking at alternative ways of measuring and ensuring content mastery.
Nurse educators know that one of the best ways for nursing students to prepare for both course tests and the NCLEX itself is repeated exposure to NCLEX-style questions that require students to master and apply course content (Magaldi, Colalillo, & Molloy, 2014). Students who practice NCLEX-style questions from the time they enter the nursing program have a great deal of exposure to these types of questions, but how do we measure mastery? Adaptive quizzing is a low-stakes measure of content mastery that reinforces the material taught in any nursing course.
The benefit of adaptive quizzing is that the student’s answers determine the difficulty of the questions. Thus, each student’s learning experience is individualized based on demonstrated proficiency, helping to ensure that the student remains engaged and that faculty can assist those most at risk for falling behind. In adaptive quizzing platforms, nurse educators can set the level of mastery students should achieve for each quiz. According to Campbell and Phelan (2014) “Quizzes are delivered to students based on an adaptive algorithm, which personalizes the experience for each student, optimizing learning potential by selecting quiz questions targeted at the current level of understanding” (p. 247). Therefore, different students taking the quiz will have a different number of questions to reach the mastery level based on how well they know the material.