Assessing and developing students’ English language proficiency prior to clinical placements: a pilot study
As universities cater for increasing numbers of students from linguistically diverse backgrounds, there is a need to develop effective post-enrolment spoken language assessment and development programs to ensure students have adequate English language levels for clinical placements. This paper presents an evaluation of a pilot project that embedded a clinical communication strategy into the first year of a nursing degree to ensure students had a level of English language considered safe for clinical placement. The strategy consisted of an initial language screening task to identify students in need of development, a follow-up compulsory language program for those identified, and a post program language assessment task, in which students needed to achieve a threshold level, in order to proceed to clinical placements. The study was conducted in a large metropolitan university in Australia. Data collected included pre- and post-assessment results, survey data on students’ evaluations, and student results from two clinical placements following the communication strategy. Descriptive statistics and thematic analysis were used to analyse data. The study found: the communication strategy was effective in identifying students in need of language development; the majority of students improved their communication skills during the language development program; and the threshold level of language used to determine whether students were ready to proceed to clinical placement seemed appropriate. The study suggests that combining initial and post-assessment with an intervention, all of which are systemically integrated into a degree program, results in a strategy with high educational impact.