Nursing Education: Course Evaluation Methods



According to Redman, Lenburg and Walker (1999), nurse educators face several challenges. For instance, nursing students have the assumption that nurse educators will teach them essential knowledge and skills to gain competency in nursing.

Nurse graduate employers presume that qualifications and subsequent state licenses are granted because they meet competency requirements. These assumptions have led to several issues. Nurse education, however, is not required to accommodate any forms of assumptions and ambiguous discourses. Hence, nursing students have competency assessment models to determine learning outcomes and realization of course objectives.

Evaluators should determine the best evaluation methods based on course goals and objectives. In addition, evaluation should meet both expectations of nursing students and nurse educators (Carr, 2002).

Nursing education institutions have many stakeholders who may have different information needs. The most important needs, however, should only focus on whether learners have achieved the intended competencies and whether learning has resulted in improved performance (Carr, 2002).

Nurse educators can use evaluation outcomes for many purposes, including curricula redesign, collecting data for improving self and developing teaching portfolio. Generally, evaluating teaching outcomes can be formal or informal as nurse educators continue to improve performance.

However, when performance improvement is involved, nurse educators must adopt a thorough and systematic process. Given the nature of learning and course objectives, it is imperative for the evaluator to adopt multiple evaluation measures to account for all elements of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives and assess a wide range of instructional activities.

Course Evaluation Methods

The course for evaluation: An Introductory Course in Computer Competency

Goal: this course will ensure that nursing students possess the necessary skills and competencies applicable in nursing practices


  • Students shall demonstrate skills in using technologies to deliver services to patients and use information systems to communicate in healthcare environments
  • Use technologies to communicate in different settings
  • Review data from different sources and apply collected data in decision-making
  • Demonstrate thorough understanding of healthcare terminologies used in healthcare environments
  • Demonstrate the importance of IT in enhancing patient care outcomes and nurse roles
  • Uphold data integrity, security, confidentiality, ethical standards, regulatory conditions and patient’s rights to privacy
  • Use healthcare technologies to address different challenges in healthcare sector
Course Evaluation Methods Course Objectives and Integration of Bloom’s Taxonomy Rationale for Assessment Methods
Competency Performance Assessments (CPAs) Demonstrate skills and competencies when tested in using technologies to deliver healthcare

Nursing students should reflect cognitive domain by showing knowledge and development of intellectual capabilities to use technologies in clinical setting (Randall, 2010)

Nurse students will also demonstrate both written and spoken communication skills, which are related to the affective domain

CPASs will assist in evaluating “all class assignments that have consequences for the course grade, such as papers, projects, participation and presentations” (Redman et al., 1999).
CPAs were chosen because they could address both elements of affective and cognitive domains in the course for evaluation.
Competency Performance Examinations (CPEs) Learners use technologies to communicate in different settings

Learners must demonstrate competencies in typing speed, applying data to decision-making, address different challenges through skills and knowledge gained from the course

CPEs are vital in real life situations where learners must assess clinical outcomes (Redman et al., 1999).
CPEs address all elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy in learning objectives because nursing students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge, adaptation, mechanisms, organization, willingness among others when facing various real life situations (Randall, 2010)
Assessment of Competency Learning A nurse educator can assess the overall goal of learning objectives to determine competencies, skills and attitude of learners to course contents, materials and modes of delivery. The evaluation method assesses whether nursing students have learned training materials (Carr, 2002). This mode of assessment is suitable for evaluating students individually.
Nurse educator can evaluate learning materials, procedures and suitability of media and instruction methods
Assessment of Competency Application Learners are expected to demonstrate the importance of IT in enhancing patient care outcomes and nurse roles.

This objective reflects cognitive domain as acquired by nursing students

This method of evaluation assesses whether nursing students can apply competencies and skills to improve performance and nursing outcomes (Carr, 2002).
The method may be used to assess nursing students’ knowledge, comprehension, applications, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of learned technology skills and knowledge in healthcare settings.

Competency Performance Assessments (CPAs) and Competency Performance Examinations (CPEs)

CPAs and (CPEs) are two methods applied to evaluate nursing students’ competencies and skills. CPAs are applied when evaluating various forms of class tasks that affect the overall grade, including “papers, projects, participation and presentations” (Redman et al., 1999). On the other hand, CPEs are applied in clinical situations to assess clinical outcomes (Redman et al., 1999).

CPEs and CPAs are designed to reflect fundamental elements that account for specific learners’ abilities and skills. Nursing students must demonstrate single, distinct, observable learning outcomes that are compulsory for skills and competencies under evaluation. CPEs and CPAs reflect specific, acceptable performance standards required in clinical and other courses. There are pre-determined course grades.

Nurse educators who are experts in nursing informatics, for instance, may work alongside nurses in health informatics environments to identify the critical elements required for evaluations under the CPAs and CPEs. Some nurse educators are also active practitioners.

As a result, nurse educators who practice and teach offer critical inputs when defining competency and skill needs to ensure effective practice in diverse healthcare environments. Moreover, such educators may undertake further research meant to define specific outcome competencies and skills for all nursing informatics students.

Such nurse educators may have rear opportunities to take part in curriculum redesign in order to address how nursing students can learn different competencies and skills and then how educators can evaluate them.

A nurse educator can only develop critical elements for evaluation within the accepted standards of practice, course objectives and with support of evidence-based practices (Redman et al., 1999).

A nurse educator then can construct CPEs and CPAs based on critical elements as necessary components for defining and measuring skills, attitudes and competencies among nursing students for a given nursing course and in this case, An Introductory Course in Computer Competency.

Informatics nursing students will be focused on specific competence and skill outcomes alongside other critical elements required in the course to ensure that they meet the standards of performance expected from the course.

Nursing students may be given various cases in “real clinical environments or simulated ones to test and evaluate their abilities to reflect the necessary critical elements of the course” (Redman et al., 1999). Students should demonstrate competence and skills in outcomes to reflect specific needs for that particular clinical environment.

Nursing students may complete various assessment tests of the course. In addition, they also have opportunities to use technologies in real hospital settings to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, ask questions, conduct thorough practices and show their proficiency in priority areas under the course.

During learning of various units of the course, a nurse educator should present tests based on specific clinical cases for evaluation. The evaluation should reflect CPEs and CPAs critical elements. The results are components of the course progress report.

A nurse educator must ensure that the evaluation outcomes are captured in correct terms for future verification purposes. Nursing students should be given opportunities to improve on specified cases of interests. In this regard, a policy should dictate that no nursing student should advance to the next course without demonstrating skills and competencies, which are prerequisites for subsequent courses.

Assessment of Competency Learning

This assessment evaluates whether “the training material has been learned and it is best conducted at the individual level” (Carr, 2002). The educator can determine an individual student performance with the aim of evaluating reactions to the course and understanding of materials.

It is vital to assess learners’ reactions to the course because negative reactions could imply poor internalization of the course contents and thus less likely to improve skills and competencies. Nursing students should demonstrate increased comprehension of the course by demonstrating new knowledge, skills and capabilities based on the course objectives.

A nurse educator needs information regarding competency learning to assess the efficacy of learning materials, modes of delivery and teaching strategies. Information about the overall success of modes of delivery, effectiveness of instructional materials and media, methods and any other related elements are extremely useful for a nurse educator who may wish to improve learning outcomes, particularly for online students.

Assessment of Competency Application

An educator may use this assessment method to evaluate “whether the competencies have been applied to improve performance” (Carr, 2002). The method may help educators to justify their teaching methods, costs and materials among others.

It provides an opportunity to evaluate performance and propose appropriate changes. Any changes from learned concepts should be reflected in behavior change, competencies and skills. Hence, when nursing students demonstrate such improvements, the nurse educator should justify the use of learning materials and strategies.

For a clinical setup, a nurse educator can effectively evaluate how nursing students apply the learned concepts in various clinical situations. Outcomes will be useful for making informed decisions and focus on priority areas.

Methods of collecting assessment data

Course evaluation methods require appropriate ways to obtain the required data. In this regard, some methods of data collection are presented here.


A nurse educator can use questionnaire to collect structured qualitative and quantitative data about nursing students’ reactions to course materials and modes of presentation. Such questionnaires should evaluate course contents and modes of presentation, as well as learners’ skills and competencies.

Nursing informatics is a training-oriented course and therefore questions should evaluate whether learning materials offer appropriate contents that would help learners to work well in real life nursing environments. They should also cover any changes in learning behaviors.

A nurse educator should assess whether modes of course delivery are effective for different students. It should focus on logical orders, detailed presentations, format and the level of learners’ understanding.

Knowledge Review

A nurse educator can perform a knowledge review to evaluate whether nursing students have learned course contents. The educator may involve tests and their responses. A nurse educator will “administer assessment tools at the beginning and after the end of the course” (Carr, 2002).

A knowledge review tool may be designed to capture short answers or multiple-choice questions for every unit covered. These questions must address various critical elements found within the course and learning objectives.

A nurse educator can compare outcomes to determine any changes in skills and competencies based on knowledge transfer after learning. Knowledge review outcomes are useful for improving the course materials and modes of content delivery.


Observation method offers a quick way of assessing learners’ reaction to teaching. A nurse educator should observe “nursing students’ interactions, levels of engagement with peers, course materials and observable responses to course materials and contents” (Carr, 2002).

Observation could be highly structured or informal based on its intended goals. Nevertheless, it can provide both general information and specific information based on certain priority areas of the course contents. Highly structured observation may require a checklist with priority areas under observation.

Skill Gap Analysis

A nurse educator can conduct skill gap analysis when students learn in real healthcare settings or simulated environments with technologies. During these periods, the nurse educator can conduct assessment on skill development by evaluating knowledge levels, skills and abilities against specified levels regarded as outstanding performance for the course.

A survey instrument is effective for conducting skill gap analysis and any poor ratings reflect inadequacy in knowledge acquisition and possible poor performance in real settings. These instruments, however, must be reliable and valid (Yanhua & Watson, 2011).

A nurse educator should use this method to obtain the necessary information on the course, but the outcome should not be reflected in performance results. Both educator and students can use outcomes to track and improve their performances before the end of the course.

Content Analysis

A nurse educator should evaluate course content to reflect changes in technologies for nursing informatics curricula (Dolan, 2003). This approach is only suitable for tracking results with the aim of “identifying trends and specific areas that may need further support and interventions” (Carr, 2002).


Obviously, nursing course evaluation is an important process for both nursing students and nurse educators. Course evaluation outcomes may have serious implications for nursing students, educators and the institution (Redman et al., 1999).

In addition, they are most likely to affect skills and competencies of graduate nurses. In this regard, nurse educators should evaluate their course objectives to determine if they are met. Some methods of evaluating courses include Competency Performance Assessments (CPAs); Competency Performance Examinations (CPEs); Assessment of Competency Learning; and Assessment of Competency Application. Nurse educators and students can improve performances based on evaluation outcomes (Mahara, 1998).

Nursing education is the fundamental elements of learning experience for nursing students who are expected to acquire the necessary skills and competencies and for nurse educators who must ensure that students meet learning objectives.

Nursing course evaluation should go beyond mere collection of data. Information gathered should be used for course improvements and changes in modes of learning delivery. They provide opportunities for stakeholders to make meaning out of learning and enhance educator/student relationship.

Educators, therefore, should conduct course assessment because it reveals insights beyond measurements and verification of skills and competencies acquisition. It shows vital learning and teaching strategies for enhancing outcomes. Thus, multiple evaluation methods are important in discovering more insights for expanding possibilities of nursing education.


Carr, W. F. (2002). Designing an Effective Training Evaluation Process.

Dolan, G. (2003). Assessing student nurse clinical competency: will we ever get it right? Journal of Clinical Nursing, 12(1), 132–141. doi: 10.1046/j.1365- 2702.2003.00665.x.

Mahara, M. S. (1998). A perspective on clinical evaluation in nursing education. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 28(6), 1339-1346.

Randall, V. R. (2010). .

Redman, R. W., Lenburg, C. B., & Walker, P. H. (1999). Competency Assessment: Methods for Development and Implementation in Nursing Education. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 4(2), Manuscript 3.

Yanhua, C., & Watson, R. (2011). . Nurse Education Today, 31(8), 832–836. doi: /10.1016/j.nedt.2011.05.003

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