Cooperative learning: A study of nursing students' achievement and perceptions

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Philip Doughty


Curricula, Teaching, Health education, Nursing, College students, Perceptions

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology


Nursing educators are seeking innovative instructional strategies that will promote achievement and the development of positive interpersonal skills among nurses. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of cooperative learning strategies on nursing students' achievement of nursing content and performance of nursing skills. Another purpose was to describe the nursing students' perceptions of cooperative learning.

The study sample included 120 nursing students; 56 students in the cooperative learning section (CLS) and 64 students in the traditional learning section (TLS). Students had the opportunity to self-select into either section. If they did not have a preference for either section they were randomly assigned.

Students in both sections attended 8 hours of class and 8 hours of lab during a four-week timeframe. The CLS section was taught utilizing cooperative learning strategies and the TLS section was taught by employing a traditional lecture/discussion format. Students in both sections were given the same assignment, the same amount of class and laboratory time, and the same examinations.

To determine the level of achievement, students completed a 56-question multiple-choice exam. A t-test was used to determine the statistical significance of differences between the means of the test scores for the CLS and TLS sections. There were no significant statistical differences in achievement between the two groups of students.

All students engaged in a performance exam to assess their ability to carry out selected nursing skills. Independent examiners conducted the exam to determine whether students correctly performed the skill by observing the performance and comparing it to pre-determined critical elements for each skill. There were no significant statistical differences in performance of the skills between the two groups of students.

To determine students' perceptions of cooperative learning, mini-reflection papers were completed by each student who attended the CLS section after every class and lab. Thirty-three CLS students also participated in an interview. Students stated that cooperative learning increased relationships between students, had a positive impact on learning, promoted an increased feeling of responsibility to help others, resulted in better class preparation, changed views of nursing, and encouraged social support.


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