Teaching and Learning Forum 99 [ Contents ]

Evaluation of student learning in the midwifery nursing science: A performance assessment approach

Maria Malimane
Nursing College of the Free State
Private Bag X290, 9460 Welkom
South Africa
Previous research on student learning and performance aimed at developing staff research skills highlighted the discrepancies which contribute to an increasing failure rate by student nurses. The study was, however, limited as a result of the sampling method used. The students experienced the courses as problematic.

The paper reports on student learning and performance, specifically in the Midwifery discipline. The study is comprised of a literature review and a questionnaire survey for first-year Midwifery students. A questionnaire dealing with the following basic areas was developed:

The paper attempts to identify the strong and the weak points of both the students and the lecturers in Midwifery Nursing Science, so that corrective steps may be taken timeously to resolve educational problems.

1. Introduction

The interest for conducting research was brought by the Australia - South Africa Links Project entitled: Collaborative staff development for quality teaching and learning in South African further and higher education.

This project provided funds to the institutions to embark on programs aimed at developing and improving teaching and learning in higher education. Amongst other things, funds were provided for the workshops aimed at developing personnel at the Nursing College of the Free State (Welkom campus) and for conducting research.

The study was conducted so as to identify the factors that may impact both negatively and positively on students' learning. It was worth conducting the study as it revealed a great deal of information where improvements can be made so as to ensure quality teaching.

2. The research problem

The purpose of the research was firstly, to identify the strong and the weak points of both students and lecturers in Midwifery Nursing Science as experienced by first year Midwifery students. Corrective steps should be taken to improve on quality teaching. Secondly, what did first year Midwifery students consider as contributory to poor and good progress in learning? Could the research identify aspects that need to be developed in Midwifery? Finally, the research project aimed at highlighting the fact that to maintain quality teaching and learning requires life-long reflection, evaluation and commitment to improvement by both students and lecturers.

3. Literature review

According to T.L. Walter and A. Siebert (1993), students who succeed are those who are goal oriented, hard working and well organised in curricular and extra curricular activities. Patricia Grey (1995:77-81) argues that a successful teacher is motivated by the desire to be a good teacher. This involves moving away from transmitting a large volume of facts. She directs her energy towards creating an environment in which students can learn to value themselves and their activities. According to Quinn (1991) an effective teaching-learning environment implies that the learners should feel free to approach teachers who are helpful, supportive, able to create a team spirit, encourage initiative and are good role models. Mellish and Brink (1990) emphasise that to facilitate learning, various teaching strategies should be used. Radloff et. al. (1997:3) emphasise that the study program should be compiled taking into consideration social life and work. Health, friendship, family relationships and work experiences are a few of the influences which interact with the study program.

According to the philosophy and policy of the South African Nursing Council (SANC) (1992:3), an awareness of socio-cultural factors which influence nursing in the community is fundamental. Accompaniment is indispensable in all teaching situations. In the clinical practice area all registered nurses or midwives are indispensable in the accompaniment of students (SANC, 1992:5).

4. Method

A systematic sample was used, thus increasing the chances of each student in the first year Midwifery course of being included in the study. A list of first year Midwifery students undertaking the four year diploma in Nursing was provided and a 50% sample was drawn.

A questionnaire was distributed to the respondents. It included both open- and closed-ended questions. Factors addressed were in the categories: students' personal background; study environment; study habits; medium of instruction; orientation; teaching strategies; social and cultural matters; personality characteristics of lecturers; teaching and learning environment; student accompaniment in the practical areas; and, lastly, learning academic values.

As this questionnaire is a replicated version of the previous one it was not pretested. The previous questionnaire was pretested and was found to be valid and reliable.

The design followed is both descriptive and exploratory. It is descriptive as it gives a detailed picture of student learning in the Midwifery Nursing Science discipline. It also describes the views, beliefs and attitudes of first year Midwifery students towards effective teaching and learning. It is exploratory because it gives new insights into the performance of both students and lecturers in Midwifery Nursing Science.

5. Results

5.1 Personal background

All respondents are above the age of 20. Females constituted 64% of the sample. 73% of the respondents obtained matric exemption whilst 27% obtained a school leaving certificate.

5.2 Study environment

18% of the respondents use the college library and 82% use their own rooms at the nurses home for studying after hours. The respondents indicated that the library is too cold in winter and that this interferes with studying.

5.3 Study habits

Respondents devoted adequate time to studying for Midwifery. This is evident in the 97% pass rate in theory. A variety of self-evaluation methods was used. Some respondents used a single method of evaluation and others used more than one method.

5.4 Medium of instruction

100% of the respondents indicated that they were comfortable with the use of English as a medium of instruction. However, there are some isolated cases where Afrikaans is used. This hampered smooth progress in learning.

5.5. Orientation

73% of the respondents found orientation given in Midwifery first year very useful as it made them aware of the expectations and requirements of the course. There were no surprises and it made them feel comfortable when in practical areas.

5.6 Teaching strategies

5.7 Social and cultural matters

73% of the respondents did not indicate any socio-cultural factors that interfered with the practice of Midwifery. 9% indicated the negative attitude of registered nurses in the wards as a problem.

5.8 Personality characteristics of midwifery lecturers

Respondents rated lecturers reasonably well. However, 73% indicated that Midwifery lecturers were unable to identify learning problems of individual students and thus could not help these unfortunate students.

5.9 Teaching-learning environment

Respondents indicated that lecturers could do more by showing concern for those students who are performing poorly and by making sure that everybody understands in class.

5.10 Student accompaniment

55% of the respondents indicated that the accompaniment they received this year was adequate. 36% indicated that it was not, especially at the clinics.

5.11 Learning/academic value

82% of the respondents found the subject to be intellectually challenging and stimulating and have learned something valuable.

6. Discussion

From the results the following can be highlighted:

7. Recommendations

The following are recommendations:

8. Conclusion

Evaluating students' learning and performance in the Midwifery Nursing Science discipline has led to a better understanding of the factors which impact on the quality of teaching and learning. It is imperative for both students and lecturers to get continuous feedback on their performance.

One cannot agree more with what the 1997 Australian Teacher of the Year, Tom Stannage (UWA) said: "We should listen a lot more to what our students have to say" (Murphy, 1998: iv).


Brink, H.I.L. (1990). Statistics for Nurses. 3rd Edition. Pretoria: Academica.

Grey, P. (1995). Teacher talk: A journey into feminist Pedagogy. Journal of Nursing Education, 34(2), 11-14.

Mellish, M. & Brink, H. (1990). Teaching the Practice of Nursing. 3rd Edition. Durban: Butterworths.

Murphy, E. (1998). Lecturing at University. 1st Edition. Curtin University of Technology, Bentley: Paradigm Books.

Murphy, E. (1985). You can write: A do it yourself Manual. South Melbourne: Addison Wesley Longman.

Quinn, F.M. (1991). The principles and practice of nurse education. 2nd Edition. London: Chapman and Hall.

Radloff, A. et. al. (1997). Success in Learning: Your guide to tertiary studies through open, distance and flexible learning. 1st Edition. Curtin University of Technology, Bentley: Paradigm Books.

South African Nursing Council (1992). Philosophy and Policy. Pretoria: SANC.

Walter, T.L. & Siebert, A. (1993). Student Success: How to succeed in College and still have time for your friends. Ohio: Harcout Brace Johavonicho College.

Please cite as: Malimane, M. (1999). Evaluation of student learning in the midwifery nursing science: A performance assessment approach. In K. Martin, N. Stanley and N. Davison (Eds), Teaching in the Disciplines/ Learning in Context, 251-256. Proceedings of the 8th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, The University of Western Australia, February 1999. Perth: UWA. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1999/malimane.html

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