Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Evaluating nursing students’ perceptions of their abilities to meet expected industry capabilities (#166)

Amanda Henderson 1 , Jennifer Rowe 1 , Karen Watson 2
  1. School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia
  2. School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia

Background: Professional programs should prepare and empower students to meet industry expectations and real-world challenges. However, as clinical placement opportunities cannot be completely controlled and standardised, student preparedness to succeed in graduate roles is difficult to assess. Although real-world settings may not align with the curriculum, it remains an important and challenging academic activity to examine students’ capability to succeed. A step towards such assessment is taken by examining students’ beliefs and feelings of empowerment to meet industry standards for care delivery.

The research and/or issue under consideration: This project assessed the viability of an impact evaluation method to determine whether the BNSc curriculum empowered students to meet industry expectations. Any lack of student belief in their empowerment to successfully deliver care in these settings may reveal gaps between curriculum and industry requirements. 

Method: An impact evaluation method was deployed and provides findings from which a judgement of program worth can be concluded1. Evidence was assembled using qualitative interviews, workshops and document content analysis to examine the curriculum/industry experiences. University ethics approval was obtained and the palliative care setting was chosen as it requires complex care and is supported by documented graduate capabilities2.

Results and implications: Industry expectations of nursing graduate capabilities were assessed against students’ own beliefs and feelings of empowerment to achieve that standard. Students did not feel fully empowered to meet all of the documented palliative care graduate capabilities, revealing gaps between curriculum and industry expectations. Empowerment is critical to evaluate as it directly impacts students' reflections on the value of the program of study undertaken.

Category: Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities

This project explores student’s learning experiences and the graduate attribute of empowerment to deliver complex care in the real world. Recently, Jones concluded “…there is a need in the literature for work that places the learner in a central position and considers how graduate attributes are understood and learnt by students”3. Graduates will work in care settings that may not naturally align with course subjects or areas studied. Consequentially, normal curriculum based assessment standards may not address this area. This project tests the viability of a general impact evaluation used to compare industry expectations of capability versus students’ self-belief.  The method seeks to determine where gaps may exist between curriculum and industry requirements in terms of the student’s belief in how empowered they feel to successfully undertake care in these settings. Review of curriculum can then be guided through knowledge of these gaps and, when applicable, this process may also trigger the need for further research. This process embodies the principles of ensuring that our students’ learning experiences contribute to the development of their graduate capabilities supporting the delivery of academic excellence in all teaching and learning activities.

  1. Owen, J., & Rogers, P. (1999). Program evaluation forms and approaches (2nd ed.). Leonards: Allen & Unwin. p.263
  2. Palliative Care Curriculum for Undergarduates (PCC4U) prject Team. (2012). Principles for including palliative care in undergraduate curricula, Brisbane: QUT.
  3. Jones A. (2013). There is nothing generic about graduate attributes: unpacking the scope of context. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 37(5), 591-605. DOI:10.1080/0309877X.2011.645466. p.603