Knowledge Areas of Curriculum Development for CNEs

Instructor: Tara Schickel

Tara has taught staff nursing courses and has a master's degree in public health.

This lesson will provide a discussion of how to plan curricula using a systematic approach. We will cover how to write objectives, select appropriate learning activities, and how to evaluate if the students learned anything or not!

Expertise in Curriculum Development

Are you an educator who has been placed in charge of developing a curriculum for your nursing students? As overwhelming as it may seem, curriculum development can be rewarding and manageable if you utilize a systematic approach. This article will describe what you need to know before you start developing curriculum, provide tips on how to write course objectives, give you ideas on how to select solid learning activities, and explain how to create an effective evaluation plan.

What You Need to Know Before You Begin Curriculum Development

Before you even decide what to include in your courses, you must first find out what competencies your nursing students need to develop prior to graduation. Today, nursing schools are heavily focused on graduating professional-minded nurses who have a passion for advancing themselves and developing a higher level of thinking within the profession of nursing. The overall focus of competency development lies in a variety of skills. Fater (2013) conducted a gap analysis to discover how well programs develop the below list of commonly aspired competencies:

  • Safe patient care and quality improvement
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Collaboration
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Nursing knowledge

According to Fater (2013), programs did a great job of developing all the listed competencies except for safety and quality improvement. The beginning point of developing a well-rounded curriculum is to find out if the nursing school's focus is geared toward this list of typical competencies. If the school has current data on where improvements can be made, this is even better. It gives you a great starting point to know what you want to strive to achieve.

Second Step...Writing Objectives

After you know the overall competency you would like to develop in your students, you then need to know how to create solid objectives to lead them in meeting those learning needs. Objectives have to be measureable. There is no way to effectively determine if your students have met the objective you have set if it is not measureable. Start by writing what you would like them to accomplish. Then, ask yourself ''What data can I collect or measure to tell me if they have accomplished this?'' An example of a measureable objective is that they will score an 85% or above on a written exam over the material.

Objectives should also be very specific. You need to not only be able to measure what you want them to accomplish, but you need to be specific and precise about the expectation. For example, ''The students will demonstrate performing a manual blood pressure on a patient and obtain a reading within two mmHG of the reading I obtain.'' This objective is extremely specific. It defines what you want them to do and how you will measure it.

When writing objectives, also keep in mind that they should include verbs that define the expectations. For example, do you want your students to be able to ''define'' a term, ''analyze'' data, or ''demonstrate'' a skill? You should be able to read the objective to another person, and he or she should be able to know exactly what you expect.

Selecting Learning Activities that Help Achieve Your Objectives

When planning your curriculum, you will want to combine multiple teaching strategies that will help the students learn and achieve their goals. There are multiple learning activities available. They can complete case studies, participate in group discussions, participate in simulations, play games, do crosswords, write papers, or look up research articles to support the concepts you are teaching. The possibilities are endless. It is important that whatever the teaching strategies you choose, they need to be aligned with your objectives. Ask yourself ''Will this activity help the students reach their objective?'' If so, it is likely to be a good choice for an activity.

Also, consider activities that re-enforce the concepts they are learning. Repetition of the same concept via multiple learning modalities helps students remember and better retain the information. Information that they receive through different activities that send cues to the brain to remember the concepts is more likely to be put into practice at the bedside.

It is important that when teaching skills, multiple opportunities are provided for practice. Hands-on practice and immediate feedback at the time any mistakes occur will foster muscle memory, and your students will be able to correctly perform skills more comfortably.

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