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by – Daira Wilson PhD, RN, CNE

The Lilly Conference held in January of 2018 was so much more than I could have imagined. This was the first time I had attended the Lilly Conference.  I was not sure what to expect and was thrilled with the results. Of the multitude of strategies and ideas that I received during the conference, I really began to think about which strategies would work best for my nursing students.

Associate Degree Nursing students are in classes for two years and then are expected to take a national test, called the NCLEX. Students who pass the test are awarded an RN license. The exam is understandably very difficult and requires the students to recall a great deal of information learned over the previous two years. Students need to be able to encode content and then retrieve it in order to pass. The NCLEX covers a great deal of information so retention strategies are needed to help our students succeed.

One of the strategies I learned about at the conference was low stakes/no stakes testing. This strategy involves frequent quizzing by using review questions. I chose to use no stakes quizzing by incorporating review questions into Blackboard announcements each week before lecture. On Fridays before the Tuesday lecture, I put 3-5 multiple-choice questions that can be answered by reading or by listening in class. No stakes quizzing involves answering the questions on their own and incorrect answers have no consequence attached to them. The value of these kinds of review questions is that it helps to guide the student’s reading and helps to encode that material better.

By “chunking” information into small bites, students are better able to remember it and allow it to sink in. The students gain confidence in their ability to answer questions over that content through engaging in these kinds of questions. Once the nursing students reach the end of the program and are ready to take the NCLEX, they will have seen all of the content multiple times in both high stakes, low stakes and no stakes formats. The repetition of the content will also help them to remember and retrieve the correct answers over time.

As a faculty member, this type of strategy is appealing to me because I can write questions that I know will be covered in the lecture and readings. Writing a few questions each week is an investment up front, but these same questions can be used semester after semester with the same positive outcomes. My students have given me wonderful feedback on the questions and have asked that I continue to include them in the announcements each week to get them thinking about next week’s lecture. I make sure to cover the answers in class and to ask the students if there are any questions about the posted review questions that they have before I finish the discussion. I am excited that I learned about this strategy and am so glad that the results have been so positive.