• baccalaureate nursing students;
  • clinical placements;
  • instrument development;
  • nurse education;
  • practice-based learning;
  • preceptors

Aim.  This paper reports the development and testing of the psychometric properties of the Clinical Learning Environment Diagnostic Inventory for baccalaureate nursing students.

Background.  The quality of the clinical learning environment is an essential factor in determining the quality of nursing students’ clinical experience. It is also well-recognized that the clinical setting can be a source of stress and anxiety for students. To design an optimal clinical learning environment for students, instruments based on the cognitive and socio-emotional aspects of the learning process are necessary.

Method.  The hypothetical construct of the clinical learning environment was derived from a comprehensive review of the literature, including experiential learning theory and the epistemology of practice. Developing the instrument involved the collection of items through semi-structured interviews, assessing content validity and determining the scaling. After a pilot study, the instrument was tested with 312 undergraduate students and 157 preceptors between September and December 2004. The factor structure was determined by exploratory factor analysis.

Results.  Exploratory factor analysis produced a five-factor solution that was similar to the hypothetical model. Cronbach's alpha internal consistency reliability coefficients ranged from 0·65 to 0·77 across the five factors. Three-week test–retest reliability coefficients ranged from 0·59 to 0·74. Criterion-related validity and construct validity were estimated by the correlation between the Clinical Learning Environment Diagnostic Inventory and appropriate other instruments and a set of comparison data obtained from the students and preceptors.

Conclusion.  The findings yielded acceptable estimates of reliability and validity of the Clinical Learning Environment Diagnostic Inventory. Therefore, this instrument is considered useful for assessing learning environments in clinical settings.