Using Rasch analysis to identify midwifery students’ learning about providing breastfeeding support



      To report on a study measuring midwifery students’ self-reported abilities in teaching and supervising breastfeeding mothers. Abilities were assessed at two time intervals, before and after completing a maternal and infant nutrition topic with simultaneous clinical opportunities to consolidate their skills.


      A convenience sample of midwifery students in an Australian university completed a pre- and post-intervention survey to assess their self-rated ability to teach and supervise breastfeeding mothers. Rasch analysis was used to gain conjoint estimates of students’ self-reported abilities to teach and supervise breastfeeding mothers across 37 items with varying complexity of care needs. Rasch analysis was used to determine validity and reliability of the 37-item tool, to develop a hierarchical linear scale reflecting difficulty of breastfeeding supportive activities, and to determine student learning between the two time points.


      From 95 responses, 34 of the 37 items met the requirement for unidimensionality. Outcomes identified that midwifery students’ self-efficacy measures for breastfeeding support abilities can be reliably estimated. A hierarchical scale for learning these clinical skills has been generated to inform curricula development and learning processes. While there was an overall increase in the ease of difficulty of 21 items in the survey at time point two, eight items were identified as becoming more difficult.


      The findings of this study challenge midwifery educators to reconsider the educational activities provided for midwifery students’ that aim to develop the requisite skills to provide effective breastfeeding support, including the provision of specific clinical opportunities to learn from breastfeeding women.


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