I teach a Comprehensive Review course, the final course for Family Nurse Practitioner students in an online program. My focus is to prepare students for the certification boards and ultimately, clinical practice. Recently, when I was reviewing an exam with a student, I thought about how she was exposed to the content twice during the course: in lecture format and then again, (hopefully), by her preceptor during clinical rotation. This exposure doesn’t count the additional interactions with the content as she studied for exams. As we were going over the information once more, I heard myself telling her that “It’s not about the grade, it’s about really learning this information for the boards and, even more importantly, for patient care.”
I understand the pressure surrounding grades, and the resulting point grubbing and sweating over partial credit. I did the same thing when I was a student. Now, as a faculty member, the focus on “getting the grade” is frustrating. I see students expending an incredible amount of energy to achieve a certain GPA when their time could be better spent learning important ideas and integrating new knowledge. How could I get them to see that these concepts are important not because they will be on the test, but because they’re critical to providing quality patient care? That the concepts need to stay with them long after those printed transcripts have yellowed in a file?
I decided to take a different tack for helping students learn what they need to learn, while capitalizing on their obsession with grades. The approach was grounded in the concepts offered by Mary McDonald (2014), including Mastery Learning and the incorporation of formative evaluation. I also pulled in theory regarding teaching to learn. These techniques have been evaluated by Bene & Bergus (2014) and found to be quite beneficial.
What was the incentive for students? The point equivalent of one exam question and a rise in their self-efficacy for each time they were able to demonstrate new mastery of a seemingly ungraspable concept.
In a nutshell, students got a second chance at learning by creating videos of themselves successfully demonstrating or explaining a concept they missed on an exam.
Here’s how the assignment works.
- Students have the option of doing up to a total of five videos during the course.
- Each video is worth the equivalent of one module exam question.
- Faculty assign the video topics based on the concepts students missed on module exams.
- The videos need to be fewer than five minutes in length and provide a “down and dirty” review of the topic.
- Faculty review all videos for accuracy before they are posted on a discussion board for all students to review.
- Students must mention their source in the video, but are not required to provide formal APA citations.
The “behind the scenes” set up
- Create an Excel spreadsheet with column headers for the name of student(s), video(s) assigned, whether points were awarded points, and if the video is posted.
- Create a discussion board for each module posting videos.
- Send the videos to Google Drive for review and post a link to the discussion board.
- Add points to the exams and feedback questions to the course evaluation.
I implemented this assignment in the last term, Spring 2017. Out of the 70 students in the course, 26 requested video topics, often more than once. I received a total of 67 videos and posted 64. I did not post three because they had incorrect information, which I was able to clarify with the students individually.
Feedback from students
These video assignments received rave reviews in the course evaluations. Students liked having the opportunity to fill in the gaps to their learning, as well as gain new insight, study tips, and tools.
- “It made me solidify the information that was still a little hazy.”
- “It makes sense now!”
- “I’m so glad we have this opportunity because these exams cover so much material, it’s difficult to know where to focus our studies and the videos allow us to review and learn the content for comps and boards.”
- “These were very helpful in making me focus on my weak areas of knowledge and come up with ways to remember the information.”
- “It really helps me to go over questions I’ve missed because I know I won’t miss the information again in the future.”
These creative videos designed by students to make up for missed points on the exams have been a huge success! Students are provided with an opportunity to identify their weaknesses, master the material, and experience deep learning. Additionally, classmates reaped the benefits of several of short videos to use when studying. The fact that the explanations were coming from their peers made it seem more relevant and understandable.
Although developed for future nurse practitioners, this approach could be applied to a wide variety of courses. This was not a means of providing extra credit, but a way to help the students learn the material. Isn’t that what we all want for all our students?
Bene, K. L., & Bergus, G. (2014). When learners become teachers: A review of peer teaching in medical student education. Family Medicine, 46(10), 783-787. Retrieved from http://www.stfm.org/FamilyMedicine/Vol46Issue10/Bene783
McDonald, M. E. (2014). The nurse educator’s guide to assessing learning outcomes (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Joanne Keefe DNP, MPH, FNP, teaches at Frontier Nursing University. Ruth Elsasser DNP, FNP, and Amber Littlefield DNP, M. Ed, FNP contributed to writing this article.