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Analysis of cognitive levels of examination questions set in the Bachelor of Nursing programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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Background: 'The literature reveals that a large percentage of teachers ask questions aimed at lower cognitive levels irrespective of the underpinning philosophy. They fail to set challenging questions at higher order levels when setting examination papers. Purpose of the Study: This study is aimed at describing and analysing the examination questions set over a four year academic period, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Nursing, in terms of Bloom's levels of cognitive domains. Research Methodology: A quantitative approach and content analysis was used. A total of 1319 questions were examined, SOUTCed from 39 examination papers, from 2003-2007. These questions were independently reviewed by two coders according to Bloom's taxonomy's template. Research Results: The findings revealed that all six categories of the cognitive domains in Bloom's taxonomy were used across the four levels in the Bachelor of Nursing (BN) programme. Overall about 57 % of the questions were aimed at lower level (knowledge, recall and comprehension) whilst only 43.4% were aimed at higher levels (application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation). In the first year lower order questions averaged at 62% with higher order questions at 51 %. In second year the lower order questions took up 51% of the paper \\~th higher order questions at 49%. During third year there was an equal (50/50) split between higher order and lower order questions. In fourth year there was the highest percentage of lower level questions (66%) was seen, with only 34% of questions being of the higher order. Regarding the increase in the complexity of questions within the programme, a change of 13% was seen between first and second year. Whilst there was an increase of 1% reported between second and third year. However, there was a significant drop (16%) in the complexity ofquestions in the fourth year, with lower order questions clearly dominating. Recommendations: The nursing education curriculum, and staff development progranune, should pay special attention towards developing educators in the setting of questions ensuring appropriate examination criteria are met. Exercises during the capacity building initiatives should cover aspects such as how to plan an assessment for the whole programme ensuring the appropriate increases in complexity as the programme progresses, as well as setting, or critiquing, of examination papers and coming up with recommendations to improve the quality of questions. Special attention should be given to how to align teaching and assessment in such a way that the level ofcomplexity increases as the students' progress through the programme. Lastly, further research should be conducted, using mixed methods, to explore the assessment of learning and in order to address certain questions which could not be answered quantitatively; for example questions regarding the construction of questions, because it impacts the nature of the question Also it should be noted that there was a disjuncture between the scenario and the questions in some cases.


Thesis (M.N.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2010.


Nursing--Study and teaching (Higher)--South Africa., Nursing schools--South Africa--Curricula., Theses--Nursing.