Improving Student Outcomes with Data — Just Use It!

Teacher in class

The goal of every health professions faculty member is to prepare students to practice safely and effectively following graduation. However, the complexity of today’s health care environment makes this task quite challenging. Current educational technology offers us help in measuring outcomes to benefit individual student performance and improve the curriculum as a whole. For example, results from HESI examinations provide data to compare individual student progress across the curriculum and to evaluate the effectiveness of individual courses and the curriculum as a whole. Consider:

  • The results of the HESI Admission Assessment Exam (A2) can be used to identify students “at risk” in the nursing program. These students can then be given special assistance to meet their particular needs, thus promoting their individual success. In addition, the first time NCLEX pass rate of students who have A2 scores considered “at risk” can be tracked to determine the effectiveness of the criteria used to identify “at risk” students, as well as the remediation process offered.
  • Student scores on specialty HESI examinations can be used to identify students who need remediation as they move through the curriculum. Also, aggregate scores can be used to identify potential areas of concern for all students in a particular cohort. For example, low aggregate scores in a NCLEX category may indicate the need to provide additional resources for all students in the cohort. Equally important, these areas can then be tracked over time to make curriculum changes within individual courses.
  • HESI Exit Exam scores give individual students an assessment of their competence, in order to prepare for the NCLEX. In addition, the impact of the analysis of the aggregate scores in the various categories is critical data for an overall curriculum review.

The use of data is critical to supporting individual student success AND improving the curriculum for all students. However, unless the data is evaluated and then used in organized processes, the full benefit of the data cannot be realized. Some suggestions for developing these processes include:

  • Outline in detail, a remediation plan for students who do not meet benchmarks set for each examination. Who will be responsible for tracking the student’s progress in remediation activities? What will be the consequences if students do not complete the assigned activities?
  • Describe ways aggregate data will be used as the program’s evaluation plan. What data will be collected on an ongoing basis? Who will collect the data? How often? Who will evaluate the results? Who will determine actions resulting from the evaluation? Where will the results of the actions be documented and disseminated?

Technology provides us with effective data to support student success AND improve curricula — We just have to use it!