Nursing studies

Making the grade under your own steam

Engage students through effective supervision before they become desperate enough to cheat, says Stephen Gowland Mahon.
Engage students

Engage students through effective supervision before they become desperate enough to cheat, says Stephen Gowland-Mahon

A recent investigation by the Times newspaper highlighted how hundreds of UK nursing students have been disciplined for cheating, with many using essay mills to pass assignments.

Honesty is paramount in nursing, so the general reaction to this was around the dishonesty underlying such actions and how this can filter through to practice, threatening patient safety.

I had undiagnosed dyslexia as a student so academic writing was challenging for me, but I never considered cheating. Now, as an educator, I have a responsibility to engage my students before they become desperate enough to cheat.

What can be done?

Supervision is the most effective way of doing this, but it has to be useful and meaningful for both myself and my students, and preparation on both

...

Engage students through effective supervision before they become desperate enough to cheat, says Stephen Gowland-Mahon 

Engaging students
Photo: iStock

A recent investigation by the Times newspaper highlighted how hundreds of UK nursing students have been disciplined for cheating, with many using ‘essay mills’ to pass assignments. 

Honesty is paramount in nursing, so the general reaction to this was around the dishonesty underlying such actions and how this can filter through to practice, threatening patient safety. 

I had undiagnosed dyslexia as a student so academic writing was challenging for me, but I never considered cheating. Now, as an educator, I have a responsibility to engage my students before they become desperate enough to cheat. 

What can be done?

Supervision is the most effective way of doing this, but it has to be useful and meaningful for both myself and my students, and preparation on both sides is paramount. 

For supervision to be a success, lecturers should be clear about what they expect from students, and students need to say what they want to get out of it. 

One-to-one supervision is great when this can be arranged, but group supervision can work equally well. My role is to facilitate a group of students, helping them to work through an assignment in a solution-focused way. This mindset is vital to group supervision – coming together with a positive and focused goal in mind will produce great results. 

Helping through technology

Social media is the perfect adjunct for supervision. I run Facebook groups for each module I lead on, alongside a more generic public group called Care to Nurse? This mostly involves fielding questions about the assignment or module content. Even if I only get three or four likes for a post, it will have been seen by 150 people. Having a wide reach in this way is invaluable. 

A professional Twitter account (mine is @anpscholar) can help you connect and share the latest news and research with students. Giving each session a hashtag allows a body of information to be built up for students and myself to revisit. 

Effective supervision is an investment in your future, so however you access it, embrace it. Think about how elated you will feel when you make the grade under your own steam. 

Top tips for effective supervision 
  • Make contact, have ground rules, and keep the communication flowing.
  • Invest in making supervision relevant and timely.
  • Agree with your supervisor what you need and what you’ll get. You need to be on the same page regarding your expectations so have a plan and always read your feedback. 
  • Use social media to share and field questions. Use Twitter to access current policy and research from reliable sources and hashtag your lectures. This will give you a great resource for students and colleagues.  
  • Make group supervision fun. You could run a ‘dragon's den’ to generate ideas. Students can share ideas and get positive, constructive feedback from their peers.

​About the author

Stephen Gowland-Mahon is senior lecturer in pre-registration adult nursing at the University of Central Lancashire 

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