Establishing Evidence for Curriculum Development: Writing Levels of Year 1 BScN Students

Thursday, 25 July 2013: 3:15 PM

Carroll Iwasiw, RN, BN, MScN, EdD1
Mark Feltham, PhD2
Mary Anne Krahn, BScN, MScN3
Whitney Hoth, Ba, MA2
(1)Arthur Labatt School of Nursing, Western University, London, ON, Canada
(2)School of Language and Liberal Studies, Fanshawe College, London, ON, Canada
(3)School of Nursing, Fanshawe College, London, ON, Canada

Learning Objective 1: Understand evidence-informed curriculum development, with specific reference to BScN students' writing skills

Learning Objective 2: Consider the relevance of study methods and findings for own situation

Purpose: The purpose was to assess incoming BScN students’ writing as a basis for course development, specifically to ascertain: a) students’ writing levels, b) relationships between writing levels and demographic characteristics, and c) areas of strengths and deficits.  Academic writing is a tool for student learning, evaluation of learning, and assessment of critical thinking Despite an admission requirement of 80% in Grade 12 English, students’ writing skills have been insufficient and nursing faculty have dedicated considerable time and attention to writing mechanics when marking assignments.  The few studies about nursing students’ writing skills are limited by small sample sizes, and in both expository and research-based literature, writing skills have been assessed by nursing faculty only.

Methods: The Model of Context-Relevant Curriculum  Development was the study framework. In this descriptive, correlational study, Year 1 students completed a writing task (a short essay) at program entry.  Essays were assessed and scored by English Language specialists  to determine writing levels, according to a standardized marking rubric and established procedures for ensuring inter-rater scoring reliability. Essays were qualitatively analyzed to determine areas of strengths and deficits.  Writing task scores were correlated with demographic characteristics.

Results: Thirty-eight volunteers (response rate 15%) participated. The mean writing score was 3.4 (maximum=6; range 1.25-5.25; SD=.73). There were no significant correlations between demographic characteristics and writing scores. Deficits in content, organization, style, and mechanics were identified in the essays.

Conclusion: Despite a low participation rate, data validated the need for a formal writing course in the BScN program. Qualitative results provided ideas about possible goals and content of such a course.