Evaluating Writing Self-Efficacy of Nursing Students in an Online Graduate-Level Writing Intensive Course

Monday, 30 October 2017: 3:05 PM

Mary E. Bishop, DNP
Lisa B. Robinson, DNP
School of Nursing, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA, USA

Contemporary advanced professional nursing requires the ability to communicate effectively in written and oral forms. The need for professional academic writing creates challenges to meet programmatic needs for academic evidence-based writing outcomes. Academic writing is presumed to be a scholarly activity for which graduate students are already competent. However, the acquisition of writing skills is a long-term learning process requiring personal practice, critical thinking, considerable effort and the involvement in training activities (Milman,Posey, Pintz, Wright, & Zhou, 2015). Student Competency in writing is often assumed as opposed to being taught as part of the curriculum (Miller, Russell, Cheng & Skarbek, 2014). Most Registered Nurses enter graduate school with experience writing in a medical record but with no experience writing scholarly papers or writing for publication. Many graduate nursing students enrolling in online programs have been out of school for many years and are juggling the competing demands of work and family. Subsequently, graduate students write without assistance due to heavy time pressures and tend to find academic writing difficult as well as stressful (Bair & Mader, 2013: Nelson, Range & Ross, 2012). These students often look to university faculty members or on-campus writing centers for guidance. In turn, faculty offer support to teach writing but lack the time and knowledge to guide students towards academic writing. Online graduate students have unique needs that may not be met by the on-campus student support offered that is traditionally provided (Haydarov, Moxley& Anderson,2013). With the growth of graduate online classes, the ability for nursing students to access in-person writing support services has decreased. As programs and enrollments in online graduate education grow, it becomes imperative to investigate the unique characteristics and needs of online graduate learners to help them be successful in online environments (Milman et al2015). The growth of online learning underscores this need for quality academic writing support to help 21st-century online graduate nursing students be successful.

Despite increased demands for more and better writing at the graduate level, little is known about graduate-level writing processes or the beliefs of graduate nursing students regarding writing. The goal of the mixed-method research study was to determine the beliefs and writing processes of 100% online graduate nursing students by measuring the writing self-efficacy of these students at the start and the completion of their first online course. A comparative pretest, posttest research design was used for this study. Participant graduate students were enrolled in the first course of an online asynchronous graduate level program of study at an accredited public institution in the southeastern United States. Graduate level students included students who have already been awarded an undergraduate degree and were pursuing a Master’s or Doctoral degree from a degree granting institution. Students were enrolled in a one-hour credit writing course designed to enrich writing skills and review strategies for successful academic writing. Forty-nine students total, eight doctoral program students and forty -one masters’ program students, were invited to participate in the pilot study. The final number of participants was n=29. Data collection began with investigator developed demographic questions. The post-secondary writing self-efficacy instrument (PSWSES) (Schmidt & Alexander, 2012) was administered as both a pre and post assessment method to collect quantitative data. Lastly, in the post-test survey, students were asked to self-report their grades for writing assignments within the courses they just completed. The participants completed a checklist of various of various types of writing assistance to indicate the nature of writing assistance they may have received during the course as well as an opportunity to discuss perceived writing needs for successful degree completion. The Post-Secondary Writing Self-Efficacy (PSWSES) Instrument was administered at the beginning of the course, then again upon conclusion of the course. The results revealed a significant increase in self-efficacy scores with the second administration of the tool. Mean of the 20-question Likert scale pre-test was 70.59. Results obtained after the conclusion of the course resulted in a mean of 80.12. The finding of a mean increase of 9.529 was found to be statistically significant. The presentation will summarize students’ perceptions of their writing self-efficacy before and after the writing course. Additionally, students and faculty were interviewed to evaluate the course and the extent to which the course and program learning outcomes were met. The presenters will share the complete findings of the research including the students’ perception of their writing self –efficacy increased after participation in one credit writing course. The presenters will describe the possible reasons for the changes in the self-efficacy scores after students’ participation in the course. This pilot study demonstrated that writing skills could be improved through guided instruction online.