Journal of Nursing Education

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Major Articles 

Use of the Pathfinder Scaling Algorithm to Measure Students' Structural Knowledge of Community Health Nursing

Jo Azzarello, PhD, RN

  • Journal of Nursing Education. 2007;46(7)
  • Posted July 1, 2007

Abstract

ABSTRACT

In nursing education, measures of structural knowledge have not been widely used to assess student learning. Some authors have suggested concept mapping as a way to measure structural knowledge, but this approach can be subjective and otherwise problematic. Pathfinder, a computer-based network scaling technique, offers an alternative, quantitative method for representing and evaluating structural knowledge. The purpose of this study was to investigate structural knowledge as a learning outcome for baccalaureate nursing students by using Pathfinder techniques. Results revealed that students’ structural knowledge increased in internal consistency and became more similar to instructors’ knowledge during a course in community health nursing. Students with structural knowledge that was most coherent and similar to the instructors’ performed better in the course. Students’ structural knowledge characteristics differentiated between high-performing and low-performing students. Findings support the use of structural knowledge representation with Pathfinder scaling techniques as a way to operationalize learning.

AUTHOR

Received: July 29, 2005

Accepted: November 11, 2005

Dr. Azzarello is Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Address correspondence to Jo Azzarello, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, 1100 North Stonewall Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73117; e-mail: jo-azzarello@ouhsc.edu.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

In nursing education, measures of structural knowledge have not been widely used to assess student learning. Some authors have suggested concept mapping as a way to measure structural knowledge, but this approach can be subjective and otherwise problematic. Pathfinder, a computer-based network scaling technique, offers an alternative, quantitative method for representing and evaluating structural knowledge. The purpose of this study was to investigate structural knowledge as a learning outcome for baccalaureate nursing students by using Pathfinder techniques. Results revealed that students’ structural knowledge increased in internal consistency and became more similar to instructors’ knowledge during a course in community health nursing. Students with structural knowledge that was most coherent and similar to the instructors’ performed better in the course. Students’ structural knowledge characteristics differentiated between high-performing and low-performing students. Findings support the use of structural knowledge representation with Pathfinder scaling techniques as a way to operationalize learning.

AUTHOR

Received: July 29, 2005

Accepted: November 11, 2005

Dr. Azzarello is Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Address correspondence to Jo Azzarello, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, 1100 North Stonewall Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73117; e-mail: jo-azzarello@ouhsc.edu.

ABSTRACT

In nursing education, measures of structural knowledge have not been widely used to assess student learning. Some authors have suggested concept mapping as a way to measure structural knowledge, but this approach can be subjective and otherwise problematic. Pathfinder, a computer-based network scaling technique, offers an alternative, quantitative method for representing and evaluating structural knowledge. The purpose of this study was to investigate structural knowledge as a learning outcome for baccalaureate nursing students by using Pathfinder techniques. Results revealed that students’ structural knowledge increased in internal consistency and became more similar to instructors’ knowledge during a course in community health nursing. Students with structural knowledge that was most coherent and similar to the instructors’ performed better in the course. Students’ structural knowledge characteristics differentiated between high-performing and low-performing students. Findings support the use of structural knowledge representation with Pathfinder scaling techniques as a way to operationalize learning.

AUTHOR

Received: July 29, 2005

Accepted: November 11, 2005

Dr. Azzarello is Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Address correspondence to Jo Azzarello, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, 1100 North Stonewall Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73117; e-mail: jo-azzarello@ouhsc.edu.

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