Shifting the focus: Increasing engagement and improving performance of nursing students in science subjects using face-to-face workshops to reduce anxiety


  • Jennifer Cox Charles Sturt University
  • James W Crane Charles Sturt University


It is generally accepted that, as a group, undergraduate nursing students struggle with science subjects and this is often attributed to deficiencies in their background knowledge. However, nursing students also report feeling anxious about science subjects and this “science anxiety” could also influence student performance. In an attempt to deal with student’s science anxiety, for the past 2 years we have conducted voluntary, two-day “pre-science workshops” for nursing students. These face-to-face sessions are run 1-2 weeks before the first science subject and are aimed at reducing anxiety, increase self-efficacy, and encouraging mastery-approach goals. When science content is presented it is to stimulate discussions about its relevance to the student’s chosen career, rather than to address deficiencies in their science knowledge. To date, 186 students have attended the workshops. In follow-up interviews students report that the sessions reduced their anxiety and enhanced their engagement with science subjects. In addition, the final grades of attendees, and their progression through the nursing course, were found to be significantly higher than non-attendees. These outcomes demonstrate that programs targeted towards reducing anxiety and increasing engagement with science can improve nursing student’s engagement with and performance in bioscience subjects.

Author Biographies

Jennifer Cox, Charles Sturt University

Academic Lead, Student Transition and Retention Program, Faculy of Science

James W Crane, Charles Sturt University

Lecturer, School of Biomedical Science