A descriptive analysis of student engagement in a post-basic nursing education programme in one KwaZulu-Natal College of Nursing selected campus in the eThekwini district.
Background: There is a growing interest in the concept of student engagement in higher education institutions. Literature reflects that engagement is an important precursor to student learning and success and an antidote to low achievement and disengagement. However, student engagement may be a battle for some students who may not be familiar with the rules of engagement, and they may easily disengage. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to analyse and describe student engagement in post-basic programmes at one selected campus of the KwaZulu-Natal College of Nursing in the Ethekwini District. Research Methodology: A quantitative approach and non-experimental, descriptive exploratory research design were used in this study. A total of 179 post-basic students participated in the study and data was collected using a self-administered questionnaire. Data was organised using the SSPS package, Version 15.0 and analysed statistically through descriptive and parametrical statistics. Ethics principles were observed throughout the study. Results: The results of this study revealed four forms of engagement; emotional, behavioural, academic and cognitive engagement. There were variations however in the levels of engagement. Active participation by the students was identified as the main driver of engagement. Active participation was promoted through class presentations (98%), participating in community-based projects (65%), discussing marks or assignments with the teacher (68%) and prepared two or more drafts of assignments before submitting it to the lecturer (39%). Barriers to student engagement were explored, and it was established that the lack of information technology resources stood out as the primary impediment. Regarding student engagement across programmes, the results revealed that all participants, irrespective of the programme or specialization, had a fair level of engagement. Differences were noted in few areas. For example, a Pearson Chi-Square test established that there were significant differences in the way participants from different ranks engaged with other students outside of their class to complete an assignment, which is part of academic engagement (X2 = 10.812, df = 4, p = 0.029). A significant difference was noted in relation to participants working with the teacher on activities other than the course work (X2 = 13.619, df = 4, p = 0.009); in this regard, the critical care group more consistently agreed that they worked with the teacher on such activities. Recommendations: Student engagement is a multidimensional concept; its definitions seem increasingly complex and diverse, and in some ways student engagement is misunderstood. Therefore a narrow definition of student engagement that is restricted to students’ level of involvement in a learning process was one of the recommendations. Furthermore, research on teachers’ perceptions of student engagement was suggested to enable the teachers to uphold the standard of nursing education and use teaching strategies that would engage students in their learning. It was also recommended that the college provides information and technological support to develop high-level critical and analytical thinking skills and to enrich educational experiences of the students which they will apply to solve real-world problems in their daily nursing practice.
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