Nursing Education and Grading System In Education

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Grading System In Nursing Education

Nursing Education and Grading System In Education

System Grading of Grading In Nursing Education,Implementation of Grading System In Nursing,Outcomes of Grading on Nursing Education.

System of Grading In Nursing Education

    Grading involves assigning a level of merit to a student's work. A grade can be a letter, a number, or pass/fail, and represents the student's effort and abilities on an assignment or in a course. Letter and number grades are on a ratio scale, which allows comparison between students or in a course. Letter and number grades are on a ratio scale, which allows comparison between students

Implementation of Grading System In Nursing

    In nursing, grades are assigned in both theory and clinical courses. It is generally thought that theory course grades are more objective than clinical course grades. In a recent national survey of nursing faculty, the grade for a theory course was primarily comprised of test grades, and then papers and projects (Oermann, Saewert, & Charasika, 2009). The survey also assessed how nursing faculty assign grades in clinical courses, which are primarily pass/fail as opposed to letter or number grades, and found that most faculty use a rubric that is often the same across courses, but altered slightly to address the specific learning goals of each course (Cermann, Yarbrough, Saewert, And, & Charasika, 2009).

    Three key themes are present in the nursing literature around grading: grade inflation, disparity between clinical and theory course grades, and challenges in assigning failing clinical grades.Grade inflation refers to giving higher grades for lower levels of effort and ability over time. Some reasons for grade inflation are due to faculty concerns around receiving good student evaluations that determine their rank and tenure and ensuring high enrollment in their courses (Shoemaker & DeVos, 1999). 

    Another reason cited is that when a C grade is considered the lowest acceptable grade rather than D, there is upward pressure on grades (Walsh & Seldomridge, 2005). One of the biggest concerns with grade inflation is ensuring graduate nurses who are able to provide safe and skilled care to patients, and elevated grades may make it difficult to determine who will pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) as well as who is adequately prepared for graduate studies (Shoemaker & DeVos, 1999). One solution to address grade inflation involves training faculty to improve grading practices (Shoemaker & DeVos, 1999).

    Grade inflation may be related to the increasing disparity between theory and clinical grades, whereby clinical grades are helping to inflate course grades. It is assumed that theory underlies excellent nursing practice, therefore, a correlation is expected between grades in theory and corresponding clinical courses (Walsh & Seldomridge, 2005) In a study comparing clinical and theory grades, the authors found that clinical grades were higher than theory grades (Walsh & Seldomridge, 2005). The reasons cited for the disparity primarily involve the challenging nature of clinical grading.

    Clinical grades are seen as more subjective than theory grades, and are therefore more challenging to determine. In a qualitative study of clinical faculty, faculty admitted overseeing students who did not meet safe patient handling standards in clinical settings, but were reluctant to fail them (Luhanga, Yonge, & Myrick, 2008). Some rea sons for not failing unsafe students included concern for how the failing grade might affect the student right before he or she was to graduate, feeling they did not have enough time to observe the student in clinical, and empathy for the amount of money spent on the course (Luhanga et al., 2008)

    One way to objectify clinical grades is to create clear evaluation standards and share these with students ahead of time. As Isaacson and Stacy (2009) suggest, creating a rubric that clearly explains what clinical skills students are to demonstrate to meet the course objectives is one way to assist clinical faculty in ranking student performance. However, clinical evaluation tools have been criticized for their lack of differentiation among students, allowing marginal students to pass. 

    For instance, some areas of the evaluation may be seen as more important to clinical performance; however, all areas are weighed the same, so if a student does well in the less important areas, he or she may still be able to satisfactorily complete clinical courses (Walsh & Seldomridge, 2005). Another issue with rubrics is that clinical experiences are varied; instructors cannot ensure that each student will have the opportunity to exhibit all of the skills listed on the rubric (Walsh & Seldomridge, 2005).

    One option explored by a university in the United Kingdom was allowing clinical faculty to use an evaluation tool with a grade scale for clinical practice rather than using a pass/fail system (Heaslip & Scammell, 2012). Although most faculty (64.2%) reported they liked the tool and grading on a scale allowed for greater differentiation of students' performance, 679% wanted more training on how to grade and 59.8% reported wanting more training on how to work with failing students (Heaslip & Scammell, 2012)

    Because failing students for poor clinical performance is such a difficult endeavor for preceptors, it is important to consider what can be done to support them in the grading process. The consensus from preceptors is that patient safety is the key criterion in assessing student clinical performance (Amicucci, 2012). One possibility would be to make patient safety carry more weight on clinical rubrics. 

    Some suggestions that came out in a qualitative study of preceptors were to have clinical liaisons who are supportive and listen to a preceptor's concerns regarding student safety, speak to the student with the preceptor, and follow up with the preceptor after failing a student (Hrobsky & Kersbergen, 2002).

Outcomes of Grading on Nursing Education

    Grading in nursing education is a complex matter that has differing challenges in theory and clinical courses. Some key themes in the literature involve grade inflation, lack of failing grades for poor clinical performance, and the disparity between theory and clinical grades.The practice of grading in nursing would be aided by research on alternative methods of clinical grading, including finding ways to assess varied clinical experiences while ensuring that students provide safe patient care. 

    Due to the complexity involved in clinical grading, it would be helpful for nurse researchers to examine innovative clinical grading scenarios to evaluate their effectiveness in capturing student learning and patient safety. Studies of faculty development around grading practices are also needed.

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