Correlates of changes in perception of intellectual authority among baccalaureate nursing students

Date of Completion

January 1991


Health Sciences, Nursing|Education, Higher




The practice of nursing today requires the practitioner to make decisions on significant ethical issues on a daily basis. Making these decisions requires a perception of intellectual authority which must be less rigid than has previously been the case.^ Traditional nursing curricula must be modified to educate nurses who have decision-making skills appropriate to this rapidly changing profession. An integral aspect of this process involves the measurement of student progress in terms of intellectual growth. This study explored a paradigm for this measurement.^ Perry's scheme of intellectual and ethical development was used as the basis of the study. In Perry's scheme, most students enter college in a dualistic intellective stage, and move to multiplistic thinking. Some move toward relativistic and even dialectical thinking.^ This study investigated intellectual development by examining gain scores on the Learning Context Questionnaire (LCQ) among 113 sophomore, junior, and senior nursing students in a regional state university. Null hypotheses were tested for no significant differences among the fall pre-test and spring post-test LCQ scores of the students and no significant relationships among gain scores, age, grade point averages and student living arrangements.^ Analysis of covariance and hierarchical stepwise multiple regression analysis comprised the principal exercises for the study. Results of the study revealed that all classes made progress toward a higher level of intellectual functioning, but their gain scores on the instrument were not sufficient, on average, to move them from Multiplicity to Relativism or Dialectic. The average student for each of the years entered and remained in Multiplicity for one year. A few students moved from Dualism to Multiplicity. Living arrangement was the single variable significantly related to changes in perceptions of intellectual authority among the students. Junior students who lived off campus experienced the greatest change in perceptions.^ This study raises numerous questions. Is intellectual functioning at the Multiplistic stage sufficient for entry level nursing practice? Do the demands for exactness of the science-based curriculum of nursing actually work against movement of students to higher levels of intellectualism? Do professional nurses mature in their ways of thinking? Answers to these questions await further study. ^