FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF NURSING STUDENTS

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

The training of student nurses, like every other health care programme, requires periodic and objective assessment and evaluation of students in the form of examinations to determine the knowledge and competencies acquired by them (Ugwu, 2015). In these assessments, scores are given and in most cases, tallied with officially set rules that determine whether a student will proceed, repeat or withdraw from the programme. In a situation where the scores meet up with the rules, the student is said to be an academic achiever. The concept academic achievement has been defined in different ways by different authors. York, Gibson and Rankin (2015) defined academic achievement as an outcome that captures the quality of students’ academic work such as course grades or GPA. Student’s learning process; persistence on the part of the student, which in itself refers to degree or programme completion; and retention, which refers to an institution retaining students during their academic careers are required to achieve institutional learning outcomes. Furthermore, Steinmayr, Meibner, Weidinger and Wirthwein (2015) defined academic achievement as that which represents performance outcomes that  indicate the extent to which a person has accomplished specific goals that were the focus of activities in instructional environment especially in school, college and university. According to these scholars, academic achievement can be in form of procedural (skill) and declarative (factual) knowledge acquired in an educational system, curricular based criteria such as grades or performance on an achievement test, or cumulative indicators of academic achievement such as educational degrees and certificates. From the above definitions, academic achievement defines  whether one can take part in higher education/ gain admission into school of nursing or into a university, proceed from one level of education to the other and based on educational degree one attains, influences one’s vocational career after education. Academic achievement refers to students’ success in meeting short or long- term goals in education. It means completing high school (e.g school of nursing) or earning a university degree. Trawler and Knight (2012) defined academic achievement as the accomplishment of an academic task in accordance with a set standard of completeness and accuracy in an educational system. This is measured by the achievement of the standard of examinations results and/or continuous assessment already set by the institution or professional body. For instance, many health care institutions and university colleges of health care education for nursing, pharmacy and medicine set a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average or number of courses that must be passed by a student at every level of study in order to complete the programme. The rules set by different institutions concerning students’ academic achievement are varied. The school of nursing University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu set as its own rule that any student who fails two courses re-sits the courses, any student who fails three courses repeats the year, while any who fails four courses drops out of the programme, all at the Preliminary Training Session (PTS) level. At second and third year’s levels, any student who fails two courses repeats the year while two times failure of two courses drops out of the programme (Mouneke, 2015). On the other hand, the rule guiding student nurses’ programme at the Department of Nursing and Medical Rehabilitation University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC) is that every student must obtain a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.0 in their examinations at all levels to enable such student proceed to the next level in the programme. These rules are meant to motivate the students to study hard and pass their examinations very well. However, the CGPA still remains the most common factor used by administrators to evaluate progression in an academic environment. Many students fail to meet up with these rules; some repeat the same class, some fail their final qualifying exams, some fail out of nursing profession entirely and scholars have always adduced many reasons on why they fail to record good academic achievements in their examinations. These reasons include among others: test anxiety, time management, test competence, academic competence, and study techniques etc (Womble, 2013). Test competence refers to students’ ability to cope with the quantity of study material provided for examinations, while academic competence is defined as students’ proficiency and ability to understand the course materials provided for the examinations. On its part, studying technique refers to various strategy adopted by students to read and comprehend the course materials provided for various courses. Other scholars identified other internal and external school variables generally known as environment and the personal factors that affect students’ academic achievement. These factors are student factors, family factors, school factors and peer factors (Crosnoe, Johnson & Elder, 2004); and demographic factors such as age, gender, geographical belongingness, ethnicity, marital status, socioeconomic status (SES), parents’ education level, parental profession, language, income and religious affiliations (Ballatine, 1993; Blevins, 2009; Parri, 2006). However, the literature is replete with a range of factors that affect or determine students’ academic achievement (Waters & Marzano, 2006). Therefore, identifying the most contributing factors in students’ academic achievement is a very complex and challenging one because of variations or differences in students’ demographic, socio-economic and environmental backgrounds. Thus, empirical study is needed in each case. In addition, although scholars have identified the above factors as the major factors influencing students’ academic achievement, the perception of student nurses on the factors that hinder them from attaining the set rules or requirements for completing their programme may vary and have not been empirically verified, at least in the various Schools of Nursing located in Enugu. Perception here is conceptualized as individual’s awareness, insight, and opinion about a situation. According to Schacter (2011), perception which is derived from the Latin word ‘perceptio’ means the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information by a person or an individual in order to represent and understand the environment or phenomenon. Perception involves individual processing of sensory input which transforms the low-level information to higher-level information, and connects it with the person’s concept and expectations (knowledge), and selective mechanisms. This construct in an individual’s mind determines his success and failure, approval and disapproval, acceptance or rejection of any issue. It has been found that the child who perceives himself to be able, adequate and a person of worth has more energy to spend on academic achievement and will use his intelligence to the utmost. On the other hand, the child who perceives himself as worthless, incapable and less confident may not come up to the optimum level of attainment / achievement (Dhall &Thurkral, 2015). Therefore the student’s ability to record any academic achievement is dependent on his perception of the factors that lead to or hinder success. Thus, the perception of student nurses in Enugu urban on what constitute the problems and factors that hinder or shape their academic achievement is essential in determining the relationship between student nurses’ perception and their academic achievement. According to Ugwu (2015), negative perception may lead to poor academic achievement while positive perception leads to good academic achievement in their annual and final examinations.