Throughout the educational process, various curriculum evaluation models need to be used to clarify whether the chosen learning course or activity leads to the desired learning outcomes. The goal of a curriculum for baccalaureate-degree nurses (BSN) is to provide students with professional knowledge and skills, so that they could provide competent nursing services after graduation (Iwasiw, Goldberg, & Andrusyszyn, 2009). Hereby, the beginning courses in the BSN program have to involve different learning strategies and activities in order to assist students in transition from general courses to the study based on application of skills and knowledge and critical thinking. This paper discusses strategies and activities that can be used in the BSN beginning courses based on students’ needs and assesses these indicators with the help of Scriven’s curriculum evaluation model.
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In his goal-free model developed in 1974, Michael Scriven has stressed the importance of goals and objectives in the evaluation process (Keating, 2011). Specifically, the initial goals have to be separated from side effects that may arise as outcomes of the learning process. At first, the evaluator has to generate a profile of students’ needs, on which the specific program and activities are directed. Then, by means of different qualitative methods, he or she assesses the achieved results of the courses and activities. In contrast to quantittive methods, the qualitative methodologies can better address the students’ needs and program goals and correlate the two factors with one another. Because of that the Scriven’s model does not provide the complete picture of the program and students’ achievements, it should be implemented in combination with other evaluation models (Keating, 2011).
Since lecturing is a poor approach for developing critical thinking skills and application as it does not ensure students’ engagement, other strategies and activities ought to be developed. For example, the usage of ConcepTests approach in medical courses can encourage interaction and collaboration between students as well as develop critical thinking skills. The tool involves conceptual questions or challenging problems posed at intervals of every fifteen minutes in lectures to concentrate students’ attention on conceptual understanding of the topic rather than simple memorization. Besides, for fostering critical-thinking skills and interaction, ConcepTests is represented in a multi-choice format, whereby the communication with a partner is needed for finding a common solution (Chew, 2004).
In order to assess how well the students have learnt the material, minute papers can be used at the end of each class session: in this way, students will write what important aspects of the topic they have understood and which issues have remained unansweered. According to the Scriven’s model, if the outcomes of students’ learning meet original goals and objectives of the course, the course can be considered as useful (Keating, 2011). It should be noted that there can be a difference between the course goals and student needs. For example, if the medical course achieves its goal of improving clinical knowledge but has the side effect of decreasing the student’s interest in nursing, the program may not be rated a successful one.
Another learning activity that educators can use for fostering critical thinking in BSN courses is discussing case studies and writing critical essays (Kaddoura, 2011). Through completion of these tasks, students can apply the knowledge they have gained during the general courses to a real-life nursing situation. In order to guide students in their writing exercise, teachers should provide them with not only written learning objectives but also with criteria for grading. By means of grading criteria, students can better understand the goals and requirements of activity, as well as assess their own work and the works of others.
In conclusion, grading and evaluation of students’ activities brings feedbacks how well the desired learning outcome is reached and provides insights into aspects that should be improved. Undoubtedly, well-constructed strategies and carefully developed activities can enhance students’ learning.