Early Intervention and Taking Ownership: Empowering Learner Success

When discussing student success, the conversation often goes to assessment first. Specifically, which students need help and how to get them that help. But what if we take an attitude of prevention as intervention? And what if that prevention model was founded in empowering learners to be in control of the learning process?

Yes, some would say that we are confusing reality with the “yellow brick road.” However, most learners that make it into nursing school have a set of motivating factors that have encouraged them to pursue a significant goal.

When someone takes ownership for their learning, they are quite likely to have the drive and motivation to succeed in the nursing program and beyond. So how can educators build in this ownership when many students view themselves as passive recipients of the curriculum? Faculty report attitudes of students that are not engaged and lack the energy needed to be successful. They say students are not focused on the learning or blame all negative outcomes on someone or something else.

Building ownership should begin from the first day of nursing school and be a continuous theme across the curriculum. Building ownership requires students to appreciate their own personal power to manage their learning, identify personal gaps, and effectively address their own personal needs.


Ownership in learning comes through role-modeling from faculty, building positive habits, and collaborating with other learners. Here are some strategies for promoting student success using these techniques:

Faculty Role-Modeling

  1. Many students simply read the textbook thinking that is the only way to learn and study. Faculty can role-model for the students how to manage large amounts of reading through frequent pauses to synthesize information. This may include breaking up the reading into chunks with an activity. For example, read for 20 minutes, then create a quick SBAR (situation, background, assessment, recommendation) on a client related to what was just read. Faculty can role-model this by having the students do it as a small group activity in class. Point the student groups toward a passage from the assigned reading. Then have them collaborate to create an SBAR. Next, each group gives a report to another group, with feedback. After an activity of this nature, remind students that when they are reading at home, if they pause and complete an SBAR, it will give them the opportunity to immediately apply what they are learning.
  2. Faculty can greatly help learners by using ancillary resources during class that can benefit students if used on their own. Many books and resources come with student activities that can significantly impact their success if used often. For instance, one book comes with free videos, case studies, and crossword puzzles. If faculty take just 5-10 minutes per week using these tools in class, students are much more likely to incorporate them into their own personal learning plan.

Building Positive Habits

  1. Accountability counts when forming habits. Faculty should remember that if students can build a habit of learning, it will help them easily make positive strides in ownership. The faculty’s primary action is reminding students through role-modeling. Just 5-10 minutes a week can make all the difference in students habitually taking part in activities outside of class that have a positive impact on learning.
  2. Fun challenges can also encourage students to develop positive habits. These challenges can be the motivation that makes tough tasks (studying before class) more manageable. This can be as simple as a smiley face sticker, a prize from the freebie gifts box, or a piece of candy. Some may go so far as to keep an online reward star or sticker chart (e.g., Kid Rewards or Moti motivation app). Make it a team challenge where five students can work together to cumulatively reach a goal. Or it can be individual. The prize can also include an extra point on the next exam, or even an exchange for a particular assignment or project (e.g., a care plan).

Collaborating with Others

  1. Prioritization power grows with peers. When students are in class learning about prioritization, put them in groups of 2-4 to create a list of priorities for a client. Faculty should avoid giving the “right” answer on the PowerPoint® presentation, as this discourages groups from taking the list creation seriously. By working with peers, students develop their critical thinking skills by being challenged by others. They see how owning the process of prioritization helps them grow in this area, and subsequently helps with difficult questions on the next exam.
  2. Collaborative care planning counts when helping students build ownership in their own learning. When students can develop a plan of care as a team, they learn to be an effective part of the healthcare team. They also are more likely to build an effective care plan by having different perspectives feed into the process. Faculty will do well to not allow students to stay in the same groups for all learning activities. They need to be stretched by working with different peers often.


Ownership in assessment is also a key strategy to help students succeed. As with learning, students will grow in this area when they see faculty role-model best practices, build personal habits of self-assessment, and collaborate with others.

Faculty Role-Modeling: Faculty role-modeling self-assessment empowers students to “know what they don’t know” before the next exam. This is not only important for succeeding in school, but also for succeeding as a professional nurse.

Building Positive Habits: Students who build a habit of self-assessment are likely to address personal needs more quickly and effectively.

Collaborating with Others: Peer-assessment allows the learner to not only better understand their gaps, but also improve critical thinking.

One tool I’d recommend implementing to help students take ownership is Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ). EAQ is a mobile-optimized, formative assessment tool that serves up personalized questions to help students succeed in their courses and study more effectively. It also adds a layer of gamification to learning with badges to motivate students. Tools like this help tie LEARNING and ASSESSMENT together in an easy and manageable way.

If any of the tips above help you empower students as responsible learners, please share with a colleague. We accomplish so much more together.

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