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Sara Jo Lee

Nursing Education

Posted by Sara Jo Lee Nov 30, 2018

For almost two decades, in effort to evaluate (and therefore strengthen programming) as well as support accreditation, Skyfactor Benchworks in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) created assessments to measure the effectiveness of certain program elements from the student perspective.1


The findings from this assessment allowed for an exploration of how nursing programs influence and contribute to learning outcomes related to professional values, core competencies, technical skills, core knowledge, and role development.


Professional Values

In response to demonstrating accountability in areas such as advocacy for vulnerable patients, fairness in the delivery of care, honoring the rights of patients, and delivering culturally competent care, at least 75% of the students reported this as being taught at “moderate” or “large” extent.2


Core Competencies

At least 67% of students indicated the nursing program taught them to apply research-based knowledge as a basis for practice, to assist patients in understanding/interpreting the meaning of health information as well as correctly evaluating a patient’s ability to assume the responsibility of self-care. 60% of students reported that the program taught them to make effective presentations.


Technical Skills

80% of students indicated they gained technical skills related to assessing vital signs and applying infection control measures from the nursing program. Approximately 75% reported being taught skills related to providing pain reduction measures and medication administration by all routes. Related to those, 60% and approximately 67% of students indicated being taught to manage wounds and provide emotional support in preparation for therapeutic procedures, respectively.


Respondents were divided into groups by previous healthcare experience before entering the nursing program: less than one year, 1-4 years, more than 4 years. When analyzing responses, the differences in professional value and core competencies were statistically significant but small. The biggest difference was in technical skills with respondents entering the nursing program with less than four years of healthcare experience being more likely than other respondents to indicate that the nursing program taught them technical skills such as assessing vital signs and applying infection control measures. There are also significant and important differences among degree programs as it relates to learning outcomes. In a comparison of BSN, RN, and Accelerated programs, respondents from the Accelerated program were far less likely to indicate being taught learning outcomes related to professional values, core competencies, and technical skills than respondents completing BSN and RN relationships. To drill down further, while the percentages of BSN and RN completion respondents indicated their program had taught them learning outcomes related to professional values and core competencies, RN completion respondents were significantly less likely than BSN respondents to report their program had taught them to assess vital signs, apply infection control measures, provide pain medication measures, and administer medications by all routes.


Core Knowledge

At least 65% of students reported that the nursing program taught them to apply an ethical, decision-making framework to clinical situations and to assess predictive factors that influence the health of patients; and 60% reported being taught to use appropriate technologies to assess patients, communicate with healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality patient care, and understand the effects of health policies on diverse populations (with an understanding of the global healthcare environment).


Role Development

The majority of respondents reported that they were taught the idea of lifelong learning in support of excellence in nursing practice. More than 60% indicated they were taught to incorporate nursing standards into practice, integrate theory to develop a foundation for practice, and delegate nursing care while retaining accountability.


As was the case of technical skills, previous healthcare experience impacted the degree to which students indicated the nursing program taught key core knowledge and role development learning outcomes. Students with four or more years of previous healthcare experience were more likely to report on being largely taught learning outcomes outside of technical skills to a large degree such as: understanding the effects of healthcare policies on diverse populations (73%), assisting patients to achieve a peaceful end of life (71%), understanding how healthcare delivery systems are organized and the global healthcare environment, and incorporate knowledge of cost factors when delivering care. Along with reporting a higher value on life-long learning, respondents indicated being taught to integrate theories and concepts from liberal education into nursing practice and delegating nursing care while retaining accountability.


There were also notable differences between degree programs as it related to learning outcomes with significantly fewer respondents from Accelerated nursing programs indicating that they were taught learning outcomes related to core knowledge than BSN and RN completion respondents.


Overall, the majority of student respondents indicated the nursing program (regardless of program or previous healthcare experience) had taught them to achieve a variety of key learning outcomes related to professional values, core competencies, and technical skills.



1. Skyfactor Benchmarks, in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), created the Nursing Education Assessments to measure the effectiveness of programs from the student’s perspective. During the 2013-2014 academic year, 24,793 students participated in the undergraduate assessment.

2. All percentages reported here indicate responses of “moderate” and “large” extent.

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Owing to the immense responsibilities entrusted to teachers, teacher education programs are tasked with setting a curriculum that prepares students for the challenges and rigors of professional teaching. Administrators must identify which components of the program are most effective, which are not as effective, and refocus their efforts accordingly. Data from the 2017-2018 Benchworks Teacher Education Exit survey provides program administrators with valuable insight into students’ overall learning and the aspects of the program that contribute to it.


This research note details findings from the Benchworks Teacher Education Exit Assessment of over 2,500 graduating teacher education students from 21 colleges and universities in the United States. In particular, this research notes explores concepts—both learning and satisfaction—that relate to overall learning as a result of the teacher education program experience.


Key Questions:

  1. Who are our teacher education program graduates?
  2. How do graduating teacher education students rate their overall experience?
  3. Which learning factors relate to overall learning in teacher education programs?
  4. Which satisfaction factors relate to overall learning in teacher education programs?

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the importance of building student communities to student success. Long story short, valuable connections are happening across campuses each and every day. And, we need valid data points to pair with the powerful stories we have on the prevalence and impact of these connections.


Given the importance of campus connections to sense of belonging and broader student success, it is of value to explore the physical spaces where these connections often occur. One area on campus that is primed to be a central point of building and strengthening community is the student union. Student unions and student centers, by their very nature, are intended to be a hub of student life, activity, and connections on campus. And, these environments are increasingly designed and intended to support student learning.


Designed in partnership with ACUI, the ACUI/Benchworks College Union Assessment provides campuses with valuable data on the college union experience. The assessment contains a wide range of questions, ranging from when and how these use the facility to satisfaction with different services. It also measures key learning outcomes that we would expect our students to gain as a result of their interactions and experience in these facilities. And, with over a decade of data from over 250 colleges and universities in the United States, we’ve learned a lot about the college union experience.  


So, what have we learned? Here are three, high-level things we consistently seen in the national data:


Students visit unions frequently


If a facility is meant to be the hub of student life, it should be a facility that students frequent often. And, data from our assessment shows that this is indeed the case. For the 2017-2018 academic year, nearly 90% of survey respondents indicating visiting their college union at least one during the academic year. Of those who visited at least one, four out of five visited their union at least once per week, while nearly 25% reported visiting at least one a day or more. And, while those visits are spread throughout the day, the period of time with the highest traffic is between 9am and 2pm, when two-thirds of respondents indicated they typically visit their college union.


Students visit for a variety of reasons


From providing options for dining to spaces for student activities, and offices for key services, college unions are remarkably diverse in their services and offerings. And, the national data on why students visit their college union or student center reflect the wide-ranging purposes of the facilities themselves. When asked to identify the top three reasons out of over fifteen for visiting their college union, almost everyone--98%--indicated that food-related offerings were a top reason for visiting. Other top reasons for visiting their college union included:


  • Studying (91%)
  • Meeting others (88%)
  • Attending programs or events (78%)
  • Visiting the bookstore (77%)
  • Relaxing (71%)
  • Attending student organization meetings (68%)


So, the national data reflect that, while students are visiting their college union for more transactional needs, like buying textbooks or getting lunch, they are also utilizing the facility for connecting, as many of the top reasons for visiting include meeting other students, attending programs, or attending organization meetings.


Unions successfully help to build a sense of community


For a college union to be successfully fulfilling its mission of serving as a hub of student life and helping to build a sense of community, we would expect more than usage data showing numerous visits for a variety of reasons. We would also expect student perceptions of those unions--centered around both satisfaction and learning--to highlight the role that unions play in supporting student success. Nationally, the data from the ACUI/Benchworks College Union Assessment reflects just that.


Across a variety of outcomes, union visitors indicated that their experience with unions, their activities, and their services all reflect a facility that is truly the hub of student life and connections. For instance, nearly three out of four union visitors were both satisfied with the extent to which their college union promotes a sense of community on campus and agreed that their union is a place to get involved in campus life.


Furthermore, student perceptions also reflect the role of unions and union activities in contributing to learning. For instance, 40% of union visitors indicated that their college union experience enhanced their ability to interact socially. And, 26% of visitors indicated that their college union activities expand their understanding of their role as a citizen of the college community.


To top it off, unions do this while being conscious of student activity fee dollars. When considering the fees paid to support their union with the quality of activities and services provided, 88% of union visitors rated the value of how their dollars were spent as at least “Fair.” 37% of visitors rated the value of their dollars as very good or higher.


So, at a high level, unions help to bring students together; provide opportunities for learning that, among other things, build campus connections; and provide all of this and more at a valuable rate for students.


Want more? We’ve got you covered

There’s much more to the college union experience than three high-level findings. How do the visit rates differ across key populations? What concepts most closely predict high union effectiveness? How does frequency of visits relate to reasons for visiting or satisfaction with the facility? For these points and more, check out two of our recent research notes, one of which goes deeper into what we’ve learned about the college union experience and the other explores frequency of visits and how it relates to union perceptions and usage.   



And, if you have other questions that we haven’t addressed yet in these notes, ask us and we’ll add it to our list!