The relationship between learning preference profile and academic achievement in first year BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy students

Clare Kell, Robert van Deursen, Department of Physiotherapy Education,  University of Wales College of Medicine:, Cardif.  UK.

On-going research at the Department of Physiotherapy Education, UWCM, Cardiff is evaluating the impact of the 3 year BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy course on the development of the learning profile variables Self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) and Learning environment preference (LP). While both variables have demonstrated change over time, the curricular impetus for this change is unknown. Research literature identifies assessment procedures as a potential source of influence on student learning profile development (Gibbs, 1999).

This study explored the correlation between variables related to learning preference profile development (LPPD) and variables related to academic achievement in Year 1 to provide an indication of the assumed influence of course assessment procedures (AP) on changes in LPPD.

Intake cohort 1998 (n=66) completed the SDLR Scale (Guglielmino, 1978) and the LP Inventory (Rezler and French, 1975) on admission (Take 1) and just prior to end of first year progression examinations (Take 2). Pearson 2-tailed correlation analyses were performed between the profile scores and student assessment scores. For this analysis the assessment procedures (AP) were grouped as follows: assignments (n=5, analysis and synthesis rewarded); written paper combined score (3 papers of five 25 minute questions each, knowledge, understanding and basic integration rewarded); kinaesiology practical examination score (30 minute practical viva and demonstration, on the spot recall, integration and simple problem-solving rewarded).

Due to the large fact content of Year 1, it was hypothesised that positive correlations would be found between concrete, fact-based preference scores and all assessment variables; a teacher-structured preference profile would favour written and practical examination scores; and students who prefer to structure their own learning would do better at the assignment tasks.

There were no significant correlations between any of the LP and AP variable scores at either Take. Two relationships among the Take 2 variables approached significance: abstract LP and the kinaesiology practical score (r=0.28, p=0.061); individual LP and the average paper score (r=-0.27, p=0.069). A positive correlation (r=0.34, p=0.014) was identified between the average assignment and written paper scores.

The assumption of this study was that AP influences students’ LPPD. The study results however, would indicate that, in terms of academic achievement in this cohort, the impact is negligible. While these students’ LP profiles moved towards a student-structured and away from a teacher-structured environment preference over time, no support was found for AP as an influencing factor. If students perceive assessments as a hurdle unrelated to their LP development, it seems that attention should be refocused on other potential sources of curricular influence, such as approaches to learning and teaching. Attention should also focus on the perceived outcomes of the AP themselves. While obviously sharing some core skills, staff consider that the assignment and paper assessment formats reward different learning and thinking skills. The correlation between these variables’ scores suggests that this reward differentiation may not be occurring in practice. The strength of the correlation will be explored further using the AP scores of other cohorts.

This study found no correlation between LPPD and academic achievement in Cohort 1998. It is suggested that, as the AP seem to have no impact on the students’ LPPD, attention is turned to other potential sources of influence during curricular design and development discussions.

Gibbs G (1999) Using assessment strategically to change the way students learn In: Brown S and Glasner A (eds) Assessment Matters in Higher Education: choosing and using diverse approaches Buckingham; SRHE and OU Press

Return to Abstracts Index