Australasian Nurse Educators Conference 2011

Wintec, Hamilton
23 - 25 November 2011

"Innovations in Nurse Education in Practice, Thinking Aloud, Thinking Ahead"

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Assessing Science-informed Competency in the First Year of the Bachelor of Nursing 
Angela Stewart
Jane Stewart 
Angela Stewart
Jane Stewart 
Nursing Council New Zealand (NCNZ) nursing competencies were incorporated into the science modules of the Bachelor of Nursing curriculum in 2009. The teaching staff endeavoured to ensure that the competencies were met through the alignment of pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. A competence approach calls into question some aspects of the validity of previous traditional methods of assessment, which provide evidence of knowledge and skills, but do not embrace the wider dimensions of competence (Mclellan, 2007; Stewart, Fester, Dannenfeldt, Stewart, & McHaffie, 2010).

The paper presents the research findings from the evaluation of a new assessment tool (science practical test), specifically focussing on the tool’s usefulness in assessing all aspects of competence, rather than only knowledge and skills. The tool was evaluated in terms of its construct and consequential validity through a variety of data collection methods. Construct validity was measured in three ways, using a matrix to map the tool against dimensions of competence, comparing it with a previous traditional form of assessment, and analysing student results from selected questions. Data for consequential validity were collected by questionnaire and focus group interview to gauge the consequences of assessment on desired learning (Boud, 2007).

Initial analysis of the student results clearly showed the extent to which students were able to make links between science learning and nursing practice. However, the wider dimensions of students’ developing science-informed competence were not demonstrated clearly. The values component of science-informed competence was demonstrated through further examination of students’ responses. Questionnaire and focus group interview findings both confirmed that students understood the intent of the assessment tool. Students recognised the assessment as providing them with feedback on their progress towards becoming registered nurses.

Although the challenges and tensions in assessing competence in nursing education remain, new understandings were gained about assessing science-informed competency in the first year of the Bachelor of Nursing.


Andersen, P.R. (2008). Determining competency for entry to nursing practice: A grounded theory study. Ph.D. thesis. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington.

Boud, D. (2007). Reframing assessment as if learning were important. In D. Boud & N. Falchikov (Eds.). Rethinking assessment in higher education: Learning for the longer term. London & New York: Routledge.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education. London and New York: Routledge.

Cowan, D.T., Norman, I., & Coopamah, V.P. (2005). Competence in nursing practice: A controversial concept – A focused review of literature. Nurse Education Today 25, 355-362.

Lauder W., Holland, K., Roxburgh, M., Topping, K., Watson, R., Johnson, M., Porter, M., & Behr, A. (2008). Measuring competence, self-reported competence and self efficacy in pre-registration students. Nursing Standard, 22 (20): 35-43.

Mclellan, E. (2007). What is a competent “competence standard”? Tensions between the construct and assessment as a tool for learning. Quality Assurance in Education, 15(4), 437 – 448.

Nursing Council of New Zealand (2007). Competencies for registered nurses. Wellington: Author. Retrieved on March 24, 2009 from the Nursing Council of New Zealand website

Stewart, J., Fester, V., Dannenfeldt, G., Stewart, K., & Mc Haffie, J. (2010). Linking assessment to learning for authentic practice: Rethinking assessment for the science modules in a 1st year nursing programme. Proceedings of the 2009 17th International Symposium, Improving Student Learning, 47-60.

Waikato Institute of Technology (2009). Bachelor of Nursing curriculum. Hamilton: Author.

Presenter(s) Biography
Angela Stewart is Principal Academic Staff Member teaching the Bachelor of Nursing in the School of Health, Waikato Institute of Technology, and brings experience in competency-based nursing education. Research interests include nursing education, clinical supervision, and communication.

Jane is a Principal Academic Staff Member teaching the Certificate of Adult and Tertiary Education in the School of Education, and brings expertise in assessment and learning in tertiary settings. Research interests include assessment, and adult education and learning 
Programme Stream
Tomorrows Workforce – Innovations, Capacity & Capabilities 
Session Times
Thursday 24 November 2011 at 11:00am