Year

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Health and Society

Abstract

Background Self-directed, lifelong learning has widely been considered important for health professionals in maintaining knowledge and skill currency. Professional accreditation standards often require health professional programs to develop these attitudes and abilities in pre-certification students, assuming that SDLR is ‘teachable’ rather than an individual ‘trait’. Programs have, therefore, sought to investigate students’ self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) to determine: (i) when students are ready to engage in self-directed learning; (ii) the effect of curricular efforts; and (iii) the utility of SDLR in predicting academic outcomes of interest. As such, there is a need for comprehensive investigation of SDLR to determine the implications for teaching and learning.

Aim The overarching aim of this research was to investigate SDLR of students in pre-certification health science programs to inform teaching and learning approaches. Method This research consists of five studies: two literature reviews and three observational studies. The observational studies were conducted with students in seven undergraduate health science disciplines at a large, metropolitan university in Sydney, Australia. The programs included were health services management, health promotion, therapeutic recreation, sports and exercise sciences, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and podiatry.

The first study is a scoping review exploring the range of factors investigated for association with SDLR of students in pre-certification health professional programs. This study followed a five-stage framework. The range of factors investigated were identified and significant findings presented.

This study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nurse Education Today. The second study developed a protocol for a systematic review investigating the psychometric properties of instruments measuring SDLR which have been used with pre-certification students in health professional programs. The manuscript for this study has been submitted to the journal, Systematic Reviews, for peer-review.

The third study is a cross-sectional survey which investigated the influence of a range of factors on student SDLR in first year, first semester. Associations and effect sizes are presented for each of the factors investigated. A model was developed explaining 52.9% of SDLR variance. This study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, BMC Medical Education.

The fourth study is a cohort study which investigated the influence of SDLR and other factors on academic performance. Associations and effect sizes are presented for each of the factors investigated. A model was developed explaining 25.9% of the variance. The manuscript for this study has been prepared for submission to the Journal of Allied Health for peer-review.

The final study is a longitudinal cohort study which investigated changes in student SDLR over time. SDLR was measured in first year and then again in third year. A decline in SDLR was found across cohort, which was associated with GPA and personality factors. The manuscript for this study has been prepared for submission to the Journal of Allied Health for peer-review.

Conclusion This study series provides a comprehensive examination of SDLR of students in precertification health professional programs. For some disciplines, this thesis presents an investigation of SDLR attributes and associated factors for the first time. The study series also investigated personality for association with SDLR for the first time in the health disciplines. Findings demonstrated that program, previous education and personality factors were predictive of SDLR. SDLR was not predictive of academic performance, however, gender and program were. Across the cohort, SDLR decreased over the three years. This research informs educators of the nature of SDLR, that it is not a trait, and that it can be influenced over time; although further exploration of influential factors is necessary. It also provides important recommendations for future research relating to the academic and professional utility of SDLR.

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