The impact of assessment methods on the learning of nursing students

Sau Fong Leung, Esther Mok, Daniel Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Assessment methods can influence the learning approaches of nursing students. Assessments designed to assess understanding rather than rote learning can contribute to a deep learning approach. Multiple-choice questions can be formulated at high cognitive levels for nursing assessments. This study aimed to examine the effect of high quality multiple-choice tests on the learning approaches of students enrolled in a mental health nursing course as measured by the revised two-factor study process questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F). Data were collected from 136 students in a higher diploma (HD) in nursing programme and 142 baccalaureate (BSN) nursing students. Two-step cluster analysis yielded three clusters represented by students who were predominantly deep, predominantly surface or intermediate in their orientation to learning. There was a general decrease in the deep learning score and an increase in the surface learning score of the students on the course, possibly related to the excessive workload in nursing studies. However, there was no direct association with multiple-choice assessment. The academic achievement of students correlated negatively with their surface learning approach. Students (n = 31) in four focus group interviews believed that assessments constructed using scenario-based questions, simulated role-play situations and case studies could direct desired learning in order to facilitate their understanding of knowledge, their use of critical thinking, and their application of knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-719
Number of pages9
JournalNurse Education Today
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2008


  • Assessment
  • Learning approaches
  • Multiple-choice questions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Nursing(all)
  • Education
  • Health(social science)

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