The competence of nurse educators evaluated by students – what the students actually evaluate

The interest in the competence of nurse educators varies during different eras. During the last decades, quite many instruments have been developed to rate the competence of nurse educators. The instruments reflect the era when they have been developed and also the teaching and learning approach of the researcher who is the developer of the instrument. At this moment, the interest is in the competence of digital pedagogy following the “digi jump” caused by COVID 19 pandemic. Before this, we were most interested in pedagogical and nursing competence. We have also been interested in how the educators full fil the duties, requirements or tasks set to them.

For educators, it is essential to self-evaluate their own teaching and work. Also, it is self-evident to ask for feedback from students and their perceptions of our teaching. This way we can develop and modify our teaching to meet better the learning needs of the students.

When asking the students to evaluate our competence or teaching, what do they really evaluate? Do the students have the competence to evaluate our competence? The students can rate their satisfaction with our course, the teaching methods we have used, how well the course has been organized, the teaching material (mainly the amount of material), the workload of the course or fairness in evaluation. Moreover, the students evaluate our interest and enthusiasm for the topic. But, do students have the competence to evaluate the accuracy, timeliness or depth of the content. It has been asked: do the students have the knowledge base or competence to make those judgements (Oerman 2017).

There are some research results concerning the students’ evaluations of their educators. It has been found out that the larger the class size, the lower the student ratings are concerning the competence of educators. Also, it seems there is a tendency for smaller classes to receive higher ratings. The graduate courses are rated higher than lower-level courses. The required and mandatory courses tend to be rated lower than electives. (Annan et al, 2013, Uttl et al, 2017.) The educators’ competence has been said to correlate with students’ study achievements (e.g. Baumert et al., 2010), but the results of the correlations are contradictory and there can’t be shown any significant correlations between student ratings and their learning outcomes (Uttl et al, 2017). Still, it is important to ask the students to evaluate our teaching and we must take the evaluations seriously.

Professor Leena Salminen and students at the ELENE intensive week at University of Turku. Photo: Imane Elonen

All in all, it has been reported that the quality of nursing education is positively related to graduating nursing students’ self-reported competence (Kiekkas et al., 2019). The recent multi-country European cross-sectional study (Salminen et al, 2021) has found that those students who rated their own nursing competence as good, also rated their educators’ competence as good. We need more research about the connection between the competence of nurse educators and the learning outcomes of the students because educators are in a key position in conducting high-quality nurse education.

Leena Salminen

Professor, University of Turku, Department of Nursing Science


Annan SL, Tratnack S, Rubenstein C, Metzler-Sawin E, Hulton L. 2013.  An integrative review of student evaluations of teaching: implications for evaluation of nursing faculty. Journal of Professional Nursing 29, e10-e24.

Baumert J, Kunter M, Blum W, Brunner M, Voss T, Jordan, A, Klusmann U, Krauss S, Neubrand M & Tsai Y. 2010. Teachers’ Mathematical Knowledge, Cognitive Activation in the Classroom, and Student Progress. American Educational Research Journal 47, 133–180.

Kiekkas P, Michalopuolous E, Igoumenidis M, Michalopuolous A & Stefanopuolos N. 2019. Factors associated with self-reported competence of graduating nursing students. Collegian 26, 267–272.

Oerman M. 2017. Student Evaluations of Teaching. There Is More to Course Evaluations Than Student Ratings. Editorial. Nurse Educator 42, 55–56.

Uttl B, White CA & Wong Conzales D. 2017. Meta-analysis of faculty’s teaching effectiveness: Student evaluation of teaching ratings and student learning are not related. Studies in Educational Evaluation 54, 22–42. Salminen L, Tuukkanen M, Clever K, Fuster P, Kelly M, Kielaite V, Koskinen S, Sveinsdóttir H, Löyttyniemi E & Leino-Kilpi. 2021. The Competence of Nurse Educators and Graduating Nurse Students. Nurse Education Today 98. Doi: 10.1016/J.Nedt.2021.104769


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