Contrasting the expectations for student understanding of chemistry with levels achieved: A brief case-study of student nurses

Kathleen Scalise, Jennifer Claesgens, Mark Wilson, Angelica Stacy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


This case study examines the understanding of a small sample of nursing students in some aspects of general chemistry. In the United States most nursing programs require college-level nursing courses, with expectations that students will master basics of first-year general chemistry. Anxiety to achieve passing grades in such courses is high for nurses, and the courses are sometimes seen as a gatekeeper for who has access to the profession. This study examines understanding achieved for a small sample of nursing students regarding aspects of matter -basic ideas regarding understanding of matter composition, structure, amounts and properties. Our intention is to highlight the contrast between what chemistry knowledge is expected of nurses and what level they actually achieve, and what this may mean for their future professional performance. Findings include that the nursing students in the sample had limited understanding of the university-level chemistry they were being asked to master, and exhibited less comprehension and more pervasive misconceptions than comparison groups, including first term high school students, in our sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-184
Number of pages15
JournalChemistry Education Research and Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006
Externally publishedYes



  • BEAR
  • Biomedical courses
  • Chemistry anxiety
  • Chemistry education
  • Computer adaptive testing
  • Item response models
  • Nursing courses
  • Perspectives of chemists framework
  • Rasch models
  • Student performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Education

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