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Creating an appropriate curriculum is critical to equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed for professional success. Curriculum mapping is an important process that enables educators and institutions to ensure a high quality of education (Jankowski, 2014). In nursing education, curriculum mapping can also assist in determining the gaps between the knowledge provided by the course and professional standards. As part of this assignment, two separate curriculum maps were produced. The present paper will analyze the curriculum maps, thus exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed curriculum.
Courses and Program Learning Outcomes
The first map aimed to determine the relationship between the RN to BSN courses and program learning outcomes at BSN, MSN, and DNP Levels. On the whole, the RN to BSN curriculum has a strong relationship with program learning outcomes at all levels. For the BSN level, there is a clear balance between introductory, reinforcement, and mastering of the concepts and skills included in learning outcomes. For example, the practice experience modules offer students an opportunity to master interprofessional communication and collaboration, information management, and generalist nursing practice. They also reinforce students’ knowledge in evidence-based practice, which is a critical concept in contemporary nursing.
The relationship between RN to BSN program curriculum and MSN learning outcomes is also strong, as many courses introduce or reinforce skills required at the Master’s level. For instance, the course in nursing science and information literacy will assist students in incorporating academic knowledge in quality improvement efforts, resolving practice problems, and using nursing informatics correctly. The practice experience also contributes to achieving the Master’s level learning objectives, such as applying evidence-based practice, collaborating with interprofessional teams, and deliver high-quality care to patients and populations.
At the DNP level, the RN to BSN curriculum introduces many vital skills, such as analysis and critique of evidence, clinical reasoning, and leadership. It also reinforces the student’s use of information technology and leadership, as well as their knowledge of health promotion and disease prevention strategies required at the DNP level. However, due to the significant gap between BSN and DNP levels, the BSN curriculum would not allow students to master any of the skills that are part of DNP learning outcomes. This is not a limitation of the curriculum, as students will have the opportunity to develop these skills as part of their MSN and DNP learning.
Despite these strengths, the curriculum also has some limitations that might prevent students from achieving program learning outcomes at different levels. First of all, some courses offer limited information in relation to particular learning outcomes. The NUR540 course on educational principles does not offer enough depth of information, and thus students will not be able to use it to master any relevant skills and achieve learning outcomes. Secondly, a significant limitation of the curriculum is that it lacks subjects that would be required to master specific learning outcomes. For example, health care policy and culturally sensitive care are not addressed in separate modules.
This affects the students’ ability to achieve mastery in related program outcomes and impairs their future professional success. As explained by Abebe and Abebe (2004) a strong curriculum should prepare students for working in the contemporary world. Policy initiatives and cultural diversity are a crucial part of today’s healthcare, and thus it is essential to address these issues in specific modules.
Lastly, another important drawback of the curriculum is that it only offers one open elective course. While there is a set of key concepts that are essential to professional success in nursing practice, healthcare and nursing are complex and diverse topics. In this context, institutions should seek to expand the opportunities for learning and development that are available to students (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2010).
Adding one or two additional elective courses would assist students in mastering and reinforcing specific learning outcomes while also improving the versatility and applicability of the curriculum to various healthcare settings. In doing so, it would also be necessary for the institution to evaluate its teaching capacity and resources to avoid problems during implementation (Mkandawire, 2010).
Program Outcomes and AACN Essentials
American Academy of Colleges of Nursing Essentials include a set of skills that are critical to achieving professional success in nursing and providing high-quality care to patients. Applying these essentials to education programs helps to create a shared understanding of student success at the institutional level (American Federation of Teachers, 2011). When comparing learning outcomes of various programs to the respective AACN Essentials, it is evident that the curriculum reflects professional standards.
Regarding the BSN course, the vast majority of learning outcomes reinforce students’ skills in essential areas, such as evidence-based practice, clinical practice, scholarship, and interprofessional communication. Nevertheless, professionalism and professional values are only addressed in one learning outcome, which is a limitation of the curriculum. It is crucial to ensure that nursing students develop relevant values and attitudes during their studies so that they would provide high-quality care in the future.
The learning outcomes for the MSN program are well-balanced and respond to relevant AACN Essentials for Master’s education. The vast majority of learning outcomes target mastering of the skills and abilities outlined in these standards, such as incorporating academic knowledge, applying evidence-based findings, and using nursing informatics. However, there are still some gaps in the curriculum as it does not address quality and safety measurement and analysis to the degree required for students to master this skill. The respective learning outcome contributes to Essentials III and V, but a more in-depth approach to the subject would be useful to improve and evaluate students’ knowledge.
At the DNP level, program learning outcomes reflect the AACN DNP Essentials thoroughly. The vast part of the curriculum aims to reinforce or master students’ skills in specific areas, which makes the course useful for advanced practice. One possible weakness of the DNP Program is that it does not address quality improvement initiatives in sufficient depth, and thus this learning outcome is not relating to mastering a particular skill included in the Essentials. It would also be useful to focus on more areas of quality improvement, thus linking the concept to advocacy, cultural diversity, and other important factors that influence contemporary nursing care.
Overall, both curriculum maps showed that the courses and learning outcomes chosen by the institution are useful for equipping students with critical knowledge and skills. The links between the RN to BSN curriculum and learning outcomes, as well as between program learning outcomes and AACN Essentials, are clear. Despite this, there are some weaknesses of the curriculum that can be observed in the maps. These include gaps in particular knowledge and skill areas, the lack of flexibility, and insufficient depth of information delivered to students. Using the recommendations outlined in the paper, the institution could improve the curriculum to address these gaps, thus ensuring that all students are prepared for achieving professional success.
Abebe, T., & Abebe, Z. (2004). Curriculum transformation to prepare students for a diverse world. Direction Journal, 33(2), 194-200.
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American Federation of Teachers. (2011). Student success in higher education. Web.
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. (2010). Sustainability curriculum in higher education: A call to action. Web.
Jankowski, N. (2014). Mapping learning outcomes: What you map is what you see. Web.
Mkandawire S. B. (2010) Challenges to curriculum implementation in learning institutions. Web.