Current literature reminds us that active learning helps promote critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Active learning requires that students be engaged through more than listening, reading, writing, and discussion.
Research has significantly proven the opposition amid adult and child learning styles. Established on the research that adults do not learn in the same style as children, it is practical to accept that one cannot teach adults employing methods developed and planned to facilitate the learning experience of children. Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer in the field of adult learning, hypothesized some assumptions to assist teachers with teaching children and adults. These assumptions include:
The Need to Know. Adult learners need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it.
Learner Self-Concept. Adults need to be responsible for their own decisions and to be treated as capable of self-direction.
The Role of Learners’ Experience. Adult learners have a variety of life experiences that represent the richest resource for learning. These experiences are, however, imbued with bias and presupposition.
Readiness to Learn. Adults are ready to learn those things they need to know in order to cope effectively with life situations.
Orientation to Learning. Adults are motivated to learn to the extent that they perceive that it will help them perform tasks they confront in their life situations.
The reason most adults enter any learning experience is to create change. This could encompass a change in their skills, behavior, knowledge level, or even their attitudes about things. In a 2006 article published in the journal Urologic Nursing, Sally Russell suggested that, compared to school-age children, the major variances in adult learners are in the degree of enthusiasm, the extent of earlier experience, the level of engagement, and how the learning is applied. Double testing allows the adult student to be engaged in the learning process.
Students need support and validation from their peers. In any classroom, evaluation is necessary. In 2012, the National League for Nursing suggested in its fair testing guidelines that tests and other evaluative measures should be used “not only to evaluate students’ achievements, but, as importantly, to support student learning, improve teaching, and guide program improvements.” Double testing is one such teaching method in which evaluation, peer support, and validation can be instituted to support student learning.
Instructors who teach in higher education can no longer rely on lecturing as their main teaching method. In Teaching in Nursing: A Guide for Faculty, scholars Diane Billings and Judith Halstead emphasize that dependence on the use of the lecture is no longer an accepted teaching technique. Instead, faculty must integrate the use of technology so that students will be more actively involved and engaged in the learning process. Also, faculty must focus more on teaching in a learner-centered fashion, as opposed to the teacher-center approach.
Double testing has been proven to be an effective teaching method. A 2013 study published in Nursing Education Perspectives found that learning, communication, and collaboration were prevalent themes in students’ perceptions and opinions of double testing. According to the researchers, the study found that “a majority of students preferred double testing and indicated that this testing method had more advantages than disadvantages.”
Throughout nursing programs, instructors are responsible for assessing students’ abilities and assuring they are competent to practice nursing. Since one of the nursing instructor’s goals is to prepare students to be safe and competent nurses, I believe that collaborative learning, such as double testing, is an excellent strategy to assist students in being able to successfully care for patients. I have used this teaching method for more than two years with senior two-year nursing students and have found that double testing promotes group interaction, interpersonal skills, and interdependence among the nursing students—qualities needed to work with members of any health care team.
In using the double-testing method, I have also found that students are more engaged and more cooperative; they also exhibit improved critical thinking skills. For example, when double-testing scores were compared over a six-month period, students’ overall grades increased from 69% to 82%. Indeed, a systematic review conducted by The Campbell Collaboration confirms that the benefits of collaborative testing “include—but are not limited to—better critical thinking skills, better collaboration and team work among peers, reduced test anxiety, and improved test taking performance.”
In a 2011 study published in Science, Deslauriers, Schelew, and Wieman compared the amount of learning students experienced when taught—in three hours over one week—by traditional lecture and by using interactive activities based on research in cognitive psychology and physics education. The researchers found that students in the interactive class were more involved and absorbed more than twice the learning than their colleagues in the traditional class.
Twenty-first century students should be allowed some control over their learning. For many years, teacher-centered instruction has been dominant in higher education. In a traditional classroom, students become passive learners or just receivers of teachers’ information; whereas, with double testing, the students make the decision whether or not to participate. This way, students take charge of their own learning and are openly involved in the learning process.
In “Helping Students Get to Where Ideas Can Find Them,” an article published in 2009 in The New Educator, Eleanor Duckworth asserts that teacher-centered learning actually hinders students’ learning. In contrast, double testing is a learner-centered teaching method, which focuses on how students learn instead of how teachers teach.
I believe that double testing is a worthy teaching method that instructors can use in the classroom to enhance student-student and student-teacher interactions. Most educators understand that learners have different preferences and styles of learning and believe that it is essential to use teaching methods and approaches that will satisfy the variety of learning styles in the learning event.
Annie M. Clavon, ARNP, PhD, MS, CCRC, is an associate nursing professor at Keiser University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.