Dr. Sarah Robinson, clinical assistant professor in the Capstone College of Nursing, shares how reflection and adaptation helped improve student experiences in one of her courses.

“Make students like this course,” my associate dean said to me when asking if I would take over and turn around a struggling course.

No pressure.

After the first semester, Student Opinions of Instruction scores were almost an entire point higher. Three semesters later, the trend remains. Though the course continues to be demanding, and students are often intimidated walking in, the course continues to be liked by students that complete the class.

Minor shifts, both in the course and in mindsets, drove the restructuring.

Here are four ideas to think about in your own courses:

  1. You can’t teach everything. Identify what is essential and critical for your students — for me it is new nurses — and cut the rest. Teach the essential and critical well. Only afterwards, add important or interesting material back in.
  2. Teach to the test. My job is not to confuse or trick, it is to teach. If I do not test them on the things that I teach them, I would have a bad test.
  3. Maintain high expectations, add accountability and build students up. This is a tough course with demanding course material and 180 hours of clinical experience. I inform students that I know they may want to find shortcuts where they can. However, I put the onus on them as future colleagues and professionals, and I let them know that my job is to support them on their journey.
  4. “Study to be a nurse, not to pass a test.” This is what I ask of my students. If they study to be the nurse they set out to be, then good grades will follow. Plus, reminding them of the reason they pursued their degree often allows them to find enjoyment of it again.