PhD in Nursing Science Program

Rachel A. Kinder

Development and Validation of the Student Activation Measure


Dissertation under the direction of Professor Kenneth Wallston


Student activation is defined as a level of engagement in learning that a student has in reaching his or her academic goals. Students are activated when they have the necessary knowledge, skills. and confidence; takc responsibility for their own learning; think critically; and implement strategies to be successful in their academic programs.

With the cunent nursing shortage and a limited number of nursing student positions. it is critical that nursing programs have high retention and graduation rates, as well as high first-time NCLEX-RL'\J pass rates. In order to identify nursing students \vho are at-risk for failure. an instrument to measure student activation was needed. The purpose ofthis dissertation was to validate an instrument that measures student activation and examine whether such an instrument can be used to identify stages of activation of nursing students.

A 20-item Student Activation Measure yvas developed (alpha = .94) utilizing a multi-group. two-phase data collection design. A convenience sample (N=442) of bachelor of science and associate of science in nursing students was selected for this study. Principal components analysis suppOlted that the SAM is a unidimensional measure with two highly correlated underlying factors that indicate level of activation: Taking Action and Having Knowledge and Confidence. Convergent validity was demonstrated by positive and significant relationships between student activation and measures of activation-related constructs. and a negative and significant relationship with psychological vulnerability. Discriminant validity was determined by nonsignificant relationships with measures of social desirability bias, strength of religious faith. and political stance.

Significant ditTerences in mean scores were found between Semester II (MedicalSurgical I) and Semester IV (High Acuity) for Taking Action. After controlling for age, marital status. number of hours worked and cumulative GPA. students in a baccalaureate nursing program continued to have significantly higher mean scores on Knowledge and Confidence than students in an associate nursing program. Thus, this new internally consistent and valid measure of student activation will facilitate identification of students who are less involved in their own learning and thereby at-risk for failure in their nursing program and on the NCLEX-RN.