Essay: Curriculum and Program Evaluation

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¶ … total assessment tool/package to measure the development of students' critical thinking skills throughout a nursing program and upon graduation. Which type of evaluation is more important to curriculum development -- formative evaluation that measures processes and progress along the way, or summative evaluation that measures outcomes and the final end product? Explain your rationale.

On the one hand, formative evaluation provides periodic performance feedback that might be useful in fine-tuning the curricular offerings to make the program more effective. After all, adult learners improve their critical thinking skills as each curricular offering is completed, and these skills help improve their performance on subsequent offerings. On the other hand, though, these same factors mean that formative evaluation precludes developing an objective summative evaluation that accurately measures the effectiveness of the final end product because it has been altered. For a growing number of educators, it is becoming axiomatic that if students are not learning the way they are being taught, they need to be taught the way they learn. Therefore, because resources are by definition scarce, it just makes good business and pedagogical sense to use formative evaluation to help identify the teaching approaches and curricular offerings that are most effective for a given program of instruction (Krein & Weldon, 1999). For example, Graf (2004) advises that, "In a course development environment, a formative evaluation scheme might involve asking a representative sample of learners a series of questions about a module in a course" (p. 39). Furthermore, well-designed formative evaluations highlight specific content area for evaluation in ways that can help identify opportunities for improvement. In this regard, Graf adds that, "The questions are generally very specific and are directly related to the content of the module being evaluated. Once a course is developed, formative evaluation is often used in an ongoing manner, to diagnose problems and inform curricular redesign" (2004, p. 39).


Graf, D. (2004, March 1). How am I doing? Distance Learning, 1(2), 39-41.

Krein, T.J. & Weldon, K.C. (1999, April ). Making a play for training evaluation. Training & Development, 48(4), 62-69.

Critical Thinking Exercises: -- each case study is

Case Study #1: Jasmine University School of Nursing

Faculty of Jasmine University School of Nursing have worked diligently to develop a new curriculum. Although they considered the advantages of an upper-division nursing program, they decided to continue with their 4-year integrated curriculum. The new curriculum is based in phenomenology, feminism, and humanism, with a strong emphasis on community-based nursing. However, hospital-based practice remains a feature of the curriculum. Concurrent with the introduction of the new curriculum will be a fifty percent increase in the class size from 100 to 150.

For more than 35 years, university students have had on-campus classes from Monday to Wednesday, with hospital -- and community-based clinical practice on Thursday and Friday, during the day. Other nursing programs in the city have had clinical experiences at other times.

As they discuss phasing out the existing curriculum and introducing the redesigned one, faculty identify a significant problem with clinical placements. Currently, fourth-year students have an experience on maternal-infant units in the fall semester. In the changed curriculum, this experience is scheduled in the fall and winter semesters of the second year (75 students in each semester). Both groups have 2 days of clinical experience each week. This means that for 2 consecutive years, 100 fourth-year students and 75 second-year students require placements on the same units on the same days in the fall semester. In addition, the popularity of home births, discharges from hospital, 8 -- 24 hours after delivery, and city-wide hospital restructuring, will lead to a 40% decrease in the number of family birthing rooms.


What are the logistical considerations in this case?

The logical considerations in this case are daunting but not insurmountable and include alternate arrangements with other nursing programs as discussed further below with the caveats that follow.


What options are possible to address this situation?

As a potential option, it might be possible to coordinate increased placement on maternal-infant units during the initial fall semesters of the revised 4-year integrated curriculum with other nursing programs that currently use other clinical experience schedules. The other nursing programs might be amenable to "swapping" a sufficient number of second-year students to other days of the week to accommodate the revised curriculum. In the alternative, new clinical placement opportunities could be pursued at other geographically proximate tertiary healthcare facilities. These alternatives must take into account their likely implications for students, faculty and critical agency personnel as discussed further below.


What are the likely implications for students, faculty, and clinical agency personnel for each of the options proposed?

The likely implications of the first alternative, "swapping" clinical placements with other nursing programs in the city, would have little overall effect on the affected students except for the possibility of increased travel time to the alternative facilities. By contrast, the second alternative, pursing new geographically proximate placement alternatives, is fraught with unknowns and may not be viable given the trends concerning the popularity of home births noted. Phasing out a current curriculum and phasing in a redesigned curriculum must take a number of factors into account (Iwasiw et al., 2009). According to Iwasiw et al. (2009), "It is common for experiences in a changed curriculum to be sequenced differently than in the previous one. Accordingly, learners in both curricula may require similar classroom courses, and access to the same practice sites, at the same time. This curriculum overlap must be accounted for so that neither group feels disadvantaged and practice sites are not overwhelmed by student numbers" (p. 271).


Should faculty reconsider the design of the new curriculum? Justify whether or not they should.

After careful consideration, if the responsible faculty regards the revised integrated 4-year curriculum as superior to the existing curriculum and the logistical obstacles are adequately addressed, it would be disingenuous and inappropriate to question its viability without the opportunity to apply it. Certainly, the curriculum design should take into account the likely obstacles to implementation and ensure that the initiative enjoys top-down support. Assuming these steps are taken with diligence, the curriculum should be implemented as planned.


In what ways can faculty prevent situations such as this when a revised curriculum is being planned and implemented?

In reality, many of the obstacles to new curriculum design are simply not preventable, but are rather part of the process in any change initiative (Keating, 2011). The relevant nursing education literature is consistent in showing that there are some steps that can be taken to mitigate these obstacles and that implementation can be facilitated by ensuring that the implications of the changed curriculum for students, faculty and critical agency personnel (Billings & Halstead, 2012).

Case Study #2

A national nursing accrediting body has notified you that your program is due for reaccreditation in 3 years. What steps must you take to be prepared for the accreditation team? Develop a plan of action to evaluate and document student and program outcomes, and organize the documents obtained.


Based on the best evidence, choose an evaluation model and evaluation tools, develop a method to track outcome evidence, and a plan to delegate certain evaluation components.

According to Billings and Halstead (2012), the evaluation model and tools that are most appropriate for a given curriculum is a step-wise process that involves the following systematic series of actions:

A. Identifying the purpose of the evaluation;

B. Identifying a time frame;

C. Determining when to evaluate;

D. Selecting the evaluator;

E. Choosing an evaluation design, framework, or model;

F. Selecting an evaluation instrument;

G. Collecting data;

H. Interpreting data;

I. Reporting the findings;

J. Using the findings; and,

K. Considering the costs of evaluation (p. 424).

The steps can be modified… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Curriculum and Program Evaluation.  (2013, April 30).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from

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"Curriculum and Program Evaluation."  April 30, 2013.  Accessed June 19, 2019.