Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Self-Direction in Learning: Does It Change over Time?

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Self-Direction in Learning: Does It Change over Time?

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine the change in students' selfdirection in learning over time. The students were enrolled in two health professional graduate programs at one institution of higher education, occupational therapy (day and weekend formats) and physical therapy. The occupational therapy program uses a casedbased learning (CBL) approach, while the physical therapy program uses a problem-based learning (PBL) approach. From 2003 through 2007, the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) was administered to three cohorts of occupational therapy and physical therapy students upon entrance into the professional phase of their respective programs, and again at the conclusion of their academic coursework. The CBL and PBL approaches incorporate the concept of self-direction in learning. Participants included one hundred and six Utica College students. Eighty-six students met inclusion criteria and were included in the results. The mean score for the pre-test SDLRS for occupational therapy (day) students was 219.10. For occupational therapy (weekend) students, themean score for the pretest SDLRS was 223.58. The mean score for the pre-test SDLRS for physical therapy students was 227.77. Mean scores for the post- test SDLRS students were: occupational therapy (day) students: 230.90, occupational therapy (weekend) students: 230.75, and physical therapy students: 242.25. The results of this study revealed that there was a significant difference between SDLRS scores from the first semester of the academic program, the pre-test scores, and those from the last semester of the program, the post-test scores (P < .001). For the pretest, students scored an average of (standard deviation) of 225.1 (20.5) compared to 237.9 (22.8) for the post-test. These results indicate that self-direction in learning did change over time fromthe first semester to the final academic semester for a group of 86 occupational therapy and physical therapy students. The results of this study will add to the body of knowledge regarding the education of students in health related programs. J Allied Health 2010; 39:e37- e41.

THE INTENT OF THIS STUDY was to examine students' self direction in learning and determine if any change occurred as graduate work progressed at one academic institution.

Given the rapidly changing health care environment, academic programs have reconsidered their educational approaches for preparing future health care professionals. Problem-based learning (PBL) and case-based learning (CBL) are two educational approaches adopted in higher education that seek to promote lifelong learning. Both approaches incorporate the concept of self-direction in learning as an expected outcome for graduates of the programs.1 "Within the health care disciplines, problem-based learning has been identified as one way to facilitate the development of self-directed learning."2

Self-direction in learning, as part of lifelong learning, has been a concept of interest to adult educators since the early 1970's.3 According to Brockett and Hiemstra, self-direction in learning is a term used to effectively define two very distinct dimensions of an educational concept. Self-direction in learning includes both the external characteristics of the instructional process as well as the internal characteristics of the learner. Brockett and Hiemstra's conceptual model considers the dynamic interaction between these two dimensions. 4

Students in graduate programs in healthcare, such as occupational and physical therapy, are considered adult learners when they enter the professional programs. According to Knowles, as cited by Hewitt-Taylor, "the adult self is reached when individuals can take responsibility for their own lives, becoming autonomous, independent and self-directing."5 Students in both PBL and CBL identify what they already know and what they need to know as they work through problems and cases within small groups. …

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