From Professional to Professor: What Nurses Need to Know

Nursing students in classroom

To be a nurse is to be a teacher. While mentoring the next generation of nurses may be a part of the job on a daily basis in a clinical setting, many nurses want to take their role as an educator to the next level — to the university classroom. Once there, though, they may find that clinical teaching experience and their own education don’t adequately prepare them for the rigors of academic pedagogy.

Here are just a few of a nurse educator’s job duties that may differ from what they’re used to in a more clinical environment:

  • Curriculum design
  • Student assessments
  • Classroom lectures and discussions

What They Don’t Teach You in a Clinical Nursing Program

While various graduate-level nursing programs prepare nurses to work on the front lines of patient care at an advanced level and their on-the-job experience prepares them to precept and mentor new nurses, those programs don’t typically teach things like curriculum design, pedagogy, how to write an exam question, assessment metrics, and giving student feedback. Let’s take a look at a few of these in more detail.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy is “a framework for categorizing educational goals,” according to Patricia Armstrong, former Assistant Director at the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University. The six original categories, starting from the most basic, are as follows:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

Bloom’s Taxonomy underwent revision in 2001 to point “to a more dynamic concept of classification”:

  1. Remember
  2. Understand
  3. Apply
  4. Analyze
  5. Evaluate
  6. Create

Much of contemporary pedagogy derives from Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Curriculum Design for Nurse Educators

Curriculum design is how an educator organizes the learning objectives for a class. In what order should the topics be presented? What concepts should go together? What’s the timeframe? All of these questions need thoughtful and purposeful answers to successfully teach students in any discipline.

Student Assessments

Student assessments function quite a bit differently in a classroom setting compared to a clinical setting. While the goal of each is to measure the knowledge and skills acquired by the exam-taker, a classroom assessment may be broader in scope, covering many more topics in greater depth. According to the Edvocate, “Assessment serves as an evaluation system, and as a way to compare performance across a spectrum and across populations.”

Test Analysis

To make sure the assessment is fair and equitable (and actually evaluates the knowledge the instructor wants tested), educators must analyze the test. They do this by analyzing each exam item and how they perform as a set.

Item Analysis

To analyze the quality of an exam, educators must evaluate each individual item. This may not be as simple as it seems because educators use various metrics called “psychometrics” to evaluate exam items.

Here are a few things to consider when judging the quality of an item:

  • Item Difficulty Index (p-value): the proportion of exam-takers who answered the question correctly. If an item has a p-value of .20, for example, it means that 20% of exam-takers got the question right.
  • Discrimination Index: the difference in question performance between students who scored well on the exam as compared to students that scored poorly on the exam. A positive index means that higher-performing students have a high likelihood of answering correctly and poorer performers are more likely to select an incorrect distractor.
  • Upper Difficulty Index (upper 27%): the exam difficulty index for exam-takers who perform in the top 27%.
  • Lower Difficulty Index (lower 27%): the exam difficulty index for exam-takers who perform in the bottom 27%.
  • Point Bi-serial Correlation Coefficient: the correlation between the exam-taker’s response on a specific question and their performance on the overall exam. A higher point bi-serial index is ideal as it indicates that performing well on this question more than likely equates to performing well on the overall exam.
  • Kuder-Richardson Formula 20 (KR-20): the consistency in item difficulty for the exam overall. This helps determine the reliability of an assessment and the likelihood that a similar performance is observed upon additional administration of the exam.

How ExamSoft Can Help

For experienced nurses new to education, these psychometrics and pedagogical methods may seem daunting. But with ExamSoft, they don’t have to be. The ExamSoft platform offers a range of solutions to make your journey from professional to professor much easier. Not only will you save time, but most importantly, your students’ outcomes will improve. As outcomes improve, so do student retention rates. And all of these help with ongoing accreditation requirements.

How can a secure digital exam platform do this? With data. With ExamSoft’s easy-to-read reports, instructors can see how well their students are doing, down to the specific questions. You can tag exam items with certain learning objectives or curricula, so you know exactly who needs to work on what learning objective. Did everyone in the course do poorly on certain questions? Instructors can find out exactly which areas of their courses, instruction, and exams they need to adjust.

You don’t have to be a data analyst to read the reports either. You don’t need to be a computer whiz to set up your exams. And you don’t need multiple platforms to get the information you need.

ExamSoft is an easy-to-use, comprehensive solution for the faculty, staff, and administrators who create and grade exams. Instructors can collect data, analyze results, and create reports that show students’ strengths as well as opportunities for improvement.

Going from professional to professor isn’t always as simple as it may seem, no matter how much experience you have, but ExamSoft’s suite of assessment solutions makes the transition easier than ever.


ThoughtCo.: Curriculum Design: Definition, Purpose and Types

ProProfs: What Is Student Assessment?

The Edvocate: The Real Purpose of Assessments in Education

Texas A&M University: Basic Concepts in Item and Test Analysis

ExamSoft: Exam Quality Through the Use of Psychometrics

Published: October 1, 2020

Updated: July 17, 2023

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