Testing in the School of Nursing is a high-stakes process for students, an essential component of student learning, and a formal component of program curriculum. Testing is one essential method of assessing student learning, program outcomes, and program quality. As such it must be managed with purpose, integrity, consistency across the curriculum, and accountability for the education we provide.
Testing also provides feedback to the students, which is particularly important in their mastery of the curriculum, development of critical thinking skills and as professionals, and preparation for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. Test results indicate areas of mastery as well as gaps in learning and performance; they also provide important feedback to the faculty as to areas for curricular, communications, and pedagogical improvements.
Testing in the SoN must be appropriately utilized in terms of content alignment, expected outcomes, the learning domain being evaluated (cognitive/affective/psychomotor), the level of learning and thinking expected (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation), the style of test questions, and the quality of exam questions. We need reasonable consistency across the faculty in terms of the length of exams, unit vs. cumulative, offering review sessions, evaluating test item quality, incorporating NCLEX-style questions, test-taking conditions, exam grading, responding to students’ questions on exam items, rounding of scores, applying curves, allowing extra-credit, providing make-up exams, and the like.
The following principles are established for testing in the PLU School of Nursing:
– All didactic courses that incorporate new required curricular content will include a form of classroom testing that assesses individual student learning.
– Students must achieve an overall combined score of 75% on the exam portion of the course grade in order to pass the course.
– Students need to be well-prepared, well in advance, for the type of testing that will occur, resources they’re expected to use, the date and time of the exams, test-taking conditions, content to be covered, item formats to anticipate, any course-specific rules, and opportunities for improvement.
– In exams that are proctored, student access to personal materials and electronics is prohibited. No student-written/electronically-captured materials are permitted to be taken by the student from the exam room.
– Review sessions that incorporate actual exams will also be proctored, and no student-written/ electronically-captured materials are permitted to leave the room.
– Incidents of misconduct during or surrounding test-taking need to be addressed immediately with consequences up to and including course failure and dismissal from the program.
For test development, the following principles apply:
– Faculty will develop their own exam questions when possible, rather than relying on textbook- provided test banks or exam items.
– Faculty teaching specific content need to plan to contribute test items for the content that they have prepared and delivered.
-Test items must be reviewed and updated annually.
– All exam items must be grammatically correct; use accurate, clear, and precise language; avoid jargon, slang, or unnecessary abbreviations; and avoid unnecessary or extraneous information.
– Faculty new to test item development or test construction are expected to consult with a faculty mentor for review of their exam questions.
– In developing test items, faculty are expected to consult the NCLEX-RN test plan to ensure that key content areas, competencies, and NCLEX domains are reflected in the exam as appropriate.
– Test items should incorporate a high proportion of items at the application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation levels of knowledge. Every item should measure something important.
– Moderate difficulty level for most items on the exam will better discriminate between students with varying levels of knowledge, preparation, and ability.
– The format of test items should be varied based on the content being evaluated, learning outcomes, level of the students, and to ensure that students are exposed to multiple formats. A general recommendation is that a full length exam include no more than three different item formats on a given test.
– No test items should be written from a deliberate attempt to “fool” the students.
– There should be a definitive plan (“blueprint”) for the exam so that all major content areas and learning objectives are appropriately covered.
– Tests should be constructed so that a well prepared student would be able to finish the exam working at a normal pace.
– Test-taking conditions need to be established that ensure students are provided sufficient comfortable space and seating, table-top or screen privacy, freedom from extraneous distractions and interruptions, and the absolute minimum of risk or temptation for personal or peer misconduct.
– If administered electronically, steps must be taken to ensure an appropriate level of security for the type of exam being administered.
– If a make-up exam is needed, an alternate version of the exam should be administered.
– Faculty are expected to conduct a review of the quality of exam questions, including item difficulty and discrimination, following initial scoring. Items that fail to perform well should be excluded from final scoring.
– Maintaining exam security is of utmost importance. Faculty are expected to ensure that all practices surrounding exam development, review, administration, storage, and study support for students are conducted in ways that foster the protection of exam security and minimize student risk for misconduct.
– If exam misconduct is suspected, evidence must be retained and the situation fully investigated. Students have full rights to an equitable, unbiased review and due process.