The influence of learning strategies on the academic performance of baccalaureate nursing students
Attrition rates in baccalaureate nursing programs continue to remain high. Reasons for such high attrition include a shift in the characteristics of nursing students, and diversity of nursing students learning needs. To meet these learning needs educational strategies must be developed to facilitate student learning. The purpose of this study was to determine whether offering learning strategies to junior level nursing students, based on individual learning styles, would influence their academic success. According to the Kolb (1984) Theory of Experiential Learning, learning is an intensive integration of cognitive style and cognitive development through a cycle of learning. Nurses work through all four phases of the learning cycle as they plan for patient care, engage in problem solving and critical thinking. This case control study was composed of 57 first semester junior nursing students who volunteered for the study, and 57 matching control cases derived from junior level students who had previously been enrolled in the same first semester junior courses. Subjects were matched by ethnicity and admitting GPA. The 1985 Kolb Learning Style Inventory was used to assess the learning style for the experimental students. Following identification of learning styles, students were then taught specific strategies to adapt their learning style to various learning needs and situations throughout the nursing curriculum. Strategies also included steps on how to read and organize assignments, test taking and problem solving skills. A T-test for related groups was used to compare the first semester course grades of the experimental and control students. A significant difference was found only between the experimental and control groups in the Fundamental of Nursing class. Those in the control group had a higher final GPA. T-tests were also used to analyze the three outcome measures by ethnicity and GPA. While no significant differences were found, minority students in the experimental group with low entry GPAs had higher mean GPAs than did the control groups in all three outcome measures. Because of small sample sizes in minority groups further study needs to be undertaken.