Numeracy skills tests: contextualisim adds realism


Ramjan (2011) describes a study where she investigated perceptions and performance of using decontextualised and contextualised maths papers for assessing numeracy. The decontextualised maths paper was questions only and the other included visual pictures and questions. The paper provides background information describing  the high number of student nurses that perform poorly when calculating drug dosages. It describes other studies and their findings that corroborate her rationale for undertaking this study.

Ramjan (2011) described the methodology in detail. A survey was also undertaken in addition to the provision of two different tests that were presented differently, but contained similar information. The findings indicated that students performed better using  the contextualised method. On examination  it was found to be many factors that students considered to be barriers or motivational factors for their learning. Barriers included age, lack of time, university workload, other commitments and responsibilities, language barriers, poor maths knowledge and skill, lack of motivation, procrastination, stress of study and not practising enough. Increased motivation by students included having more tests, workshops, online quizzes or practising more.

The implications for clinical supervisors include ensuring that apart from students being under direct supervision when undertaking medication management, they are vested with the responsibility of providing the context for numeracy calculations. Once students understand the purpose and implications of incorrectly calculating any medication regimen, the awareness for mandatory safe practice will be in context. This author concluded the paper by stating that students gained deeper learning using contextualised situations which enabled retention of medication management material. This in turn was postulated to facilitate competence in practice. Therefore it is important that students are exposed to medication management, including calculations while in the experiential environment.

If you have any comments about nurses undertaking medication management and methods to improve numeracy in nursing you are welcome to post them here.

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