discouraged educator


Hi, I'm Claire, new to teaching nursing, but not new to nursing. I'm hoping you folks can help me get the nerve to go back to work tomorrow. I worked really hard to explain the content, find questions suitable to a pre entry-level nurse, and still over half the class failed this last unit test! How much blame should an instructor take? Or is this reaction normal for the first year? I've already looked through my region's job postings--I'm that discouraged. Unfortunately for me, there's nothing that interests me. :uhoh21:

That's a rotten introduction to myself. Normally I'm a gung-ho, let's "get er dun" person. Love gardening, soon to be a grandma for the first time, happily married 28 years. Life's been fair enough. Till now. :lol2:

The good thing about a forum is folks can be blunt cause they don't know you. Honesty is a great critic, and positive criticism is a great way to grow. Looking forward to getting to know you all. Claire

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

My recommendation is to remember that not every student has what it takes to pass. I just read a report that 50% of the high school graduates can not read at a college level. Some of those who don't have the skills for college-level work end up going to college anyway. Many have never studied a topic in depth before and lack experience processing and understanding complex material. High schools are often not rigorous enough. Sad but true.

As unpleasant as it is ... part of your job is to protect the public by giving those students with deficiencies a "wake up" call. Either they improve the work habits ... or get the remedial work they need to handle sophisticated college level material ... or they should not be allowed to be nurses and responsible for the well-being of others. Their deficiencies are neither your fault nor totally your responsibililty.

Make a good effort to explain the material ... but NEVER lower your standards. Just as you can't save every patient, you can't make every student worthy of good grades. They have to earn the right to be a nurse and take some responsibility for their own performance.

What do your collegues at your school say about the quality of the student's performance? Are they doing badly only in your class? ... or in other classes as well?


Thunderwolf, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 6,621 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatric, Behavioral Health. Has 32 years experience.

Most excellent advice, llg.

Debrajo MSN

8 Posts

Hey, don't be discouraged. If you have explained the content etc. maybe just maybe, this bunch is not cut out to be nurses. Even though we have a nursing shortage one thing I don't want to see is programs "dumbed down" to the point that just anyone could be a nurse. The true mark of your success is not how many students pass the test.

allnurses Guide

JBudd, MSN

1 Article; 3,836 Posts

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 42 years experience.

Are they all missing the same questions or is it random? In my classes, any question where most of the students get it wrong is thrown out. Are you asking very detailed questions, or are they broadly put so that several answers "might" be right. Take one or two of your best aside and ask them what they think of the quizzes. Is it only the unit test they fail, but perform well clinically?

If you are new to teaching, give yourself a break! You need to learn how to do it as well, find your way as you go. I agree with the above poster, check in with some of your fellow instructors, look at their tests, ask for some feedback. Do you have access to the tests the previous instructor used?

Good luck!

Boston-RN, RN

501 Posts

Specializes in LTAC, Telemetry, Thoracic Surgery, ED.

Hey there, It's encouraging that you're seeking advice. I am a nursing student so I can relate to the other side of your dilema. What the other poster mentioned about finding out which ones people got wrong, if they all got the same wrong answers it might be the way the question was asked. I might suggest having your peer educators take a quick glance at the wording of the question. Compare it to any NCLEX study guide. Also if it's the first test of the program sometimes the students aren't used to the critical thinking format.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.
Are they all missing the same questions or is it random? In my classes, any question where most of the students get it wrong is thrown out.

Good luck!

I know you have the best of intentions ... but I think that is a TERRIBLE policy! With a policy like that, the students can chose to avoid the work and not learn the material. As long as a majority of students do a bad job, the school will let them slide. Abominable!

If a high percentage of students miss a particular question, that question should be reconsidered and reviewed for its appropriateness. PERHAPS it should be thrown out -- but it shouldn't be automatic. Sometimes those are the best questions to identify who deserves an A and who deserves a C.

I strongly believe that most tests should include a couple of tough questions that only the strongest of students get right. That's how you identify them. As one of my college philosophy professors once said, "If Superman happens to be a student in my class, he deserves a chance to show me that he is a superior student. He doesn't have that chance to demonstrate his high level of achievement if I don't include a couple of really hard questions."

Taking out everything that the students think is difficult is how programs get "dummied down." In the end, everybody looses.



167 Posts

hi, i'm claire, new to teaching nursing, but not new to nursing. i'm hoping you folks can help me get the nerve to go back to work tomorrow. i worked really hard to explain the content, find questions suitable to a pre entry-level nurse, and still over half the class failed this last unit test! how much blame should an instructor take? or is this reaction normal for the first year? i've already looked through my region's job postings--i'm that discouraged. unfortunately for me, there's nothing that interests me.

did you have other instructors review your exam? input from other instructors can be invaluable. they can objectively review the questions and determine if the question is an appropriate level for the class.

were the questions based on the module objectives? if so, then before you even begin the lecture, inform your "adult learner" students that they are responsible for the objectives, whether covered in lecture or not. in this way, students will not depend only on their lecture notes.

if you are comfortable with your lecture material, then stop beating yourself up. the type of questions asked in nursing programs are not the same as their pre-req's classes. students new to the program are not familiar with the critical thinking type questions.

Specializes in Pediatrics. Has 28 years experience.

Hi, and welcome. Hope to see you in the Nurse Educator forum... there are lots of valuable resources there that I have been taking advantage of, as a new nurse educator.

Do you have any experience with item analysis? If a question tests well, then it is a good question. I don't have my info with me on Item analysis (left it at work), but there's a whole method to that madness.

I recently made up my first batch of questions that I lectured on (this is my forst semester doing lectures). My colleagues were pretty impressed w/ my questions. The students tested, and I got my results (left them at work, sorry). Of the questions where not everyone got them right, a good number went for the obvious distractors. The key, I believe, is making good distractors. This differentiates the strong stdent from the weak student.

One of my grad classes had a heavy focus on test constuction and item analysis. Awesome class. I'll try to round up my class notes if you have any questions (I should refresh myself!!!)

Did anyone else review your questions bedore you tested?? What was their opinion??

I'm a totally disillusioned student. I was thrown out of a nursing program that has a retention rate of about 33% of the students who sign up for it. The public doesn't know the retention rate of the students in the program and the students don't find out until you have too much time and money invested to change schools...advice to those pre-nursing students out there. Check out your potential school's retention rate. Also, look at WHO the school is pushing their recruitment toward. When a 4 year university takes the top 100 students out of 600 for their junior and senior level program and then kicks out 2/3 of those students semester after semester you should question what is going on. Ours wanted a 100% NCLEX pass rate and stops at nothing to achieve it. Questions are not really "thrown out" if most of the students pass them. Those who missed those bad questions get 1/2 credit back. Do the math and you will discover that someone in the program is giving credit to the wrong people. Clinicals count Nothing in this program toward the grade. And failing is sooooo common.


21 Posts

You might find it helpful to ask a trusted peer to engage in peer evaluation of your instruction. After watching you teach, you should have a heart to heart constructive conversation about your teaching. Then have this peer look at your exam related to the content you just taught to give feedback. this will give you an objective evaluation of your methods.


762 Posts

Nursing education is like any other nursing specialty. There is a lot of OJT and you get better with experience. That said, half my RN class flunked out 1st semester. Some were not smart enough, some did not read well enough, and a lot did not study or work hard enough. You can not blame yourself for the failures of others. These are adults that should not have to be "spoon fed" answers to test questions. Despit the current shortage you do no one favors by passing unqualified candidates.

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