Hopeful Thinking and Goal Orientation in High-Stakes Nursing Education Examinations

Tuesday, 19 November 2013: 9:10 AM

Alice L. March, PhD, RN, FNP-C, CNE1
Cecil Robinson, PhD2
Sarah M. Robinson, BSN1
(1)Capstone College of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
(2)Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology & Counseling, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Learning Objective 1: The learner will state the two dimensions achievement goal orientation.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will discuss how hopeful thinking may affect high-stakes examination scores.

Purpose: Hopeful thinking and achievement goal orientation predict academic achievement and graduation rates in many countries. This study's guiding framework posits that achievement goal orientation has two dimensions: mastery/performance, and approach/avoidance, creating four possible combinations. Students with mastery goals desire competence and students with performance goals want to excel above others. Students with approach goals see challenges as opportunities to achieve goals, whereas students with avoidance goals do not want appear incompetent; therefore, they study for high-stakes exams only to avoid required remediation assignments. Little research has examined relationships among these constructs and the likelihood of passing high-stakes exams designed to predict success on licensure exams. This study examined relationships among hopeful thinking, goal orientation, and performance on high-stakes examinations in pre-licensure nursing students.

Methods: Students enrolled in upper-division classes completed online surveys assessing hopeful thinking (Hope Scale) and goal orientation (Achievement Goal Questionnaire – Revised) prior to high-stakes testing. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, correlations, and regression analyses.

Findings: Analyses reveal that hope was positively correlated with mastery approach (r= .446, p< .001) and performance approach (r= .231, p= .004). Hope was not correlated with performance or mastery avoidance goal orientations. Regression analyses indicate that hope was positively related (b= 4.9, SE= 2.0, p= .02) and performance-avoidance was negatively related (b= -5.2, SE= 2.6, p= .05) with performance on the high-stakes exam.

Conclusion: When considering implications, the positive correlation of higher hopeful thinking scores with higher exam scores demonstrates the importance of considering strategies that may support or increase hopeful thinking among students during nursing education. Findings also suggest that remediation may not be the best approach for those who do not meet the passing score on the exam, because students who attained lower exam scores may have studied for exams only to avoid remediation.