Approaches, perceptions and conceptions of 3rd year physiotherapy students in a problem-based learning module

Keiller, Lianne (2010-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Centre for Health Sciences Education)--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.


Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the approaches, conceptions and perceptions toward learning of undergraduate Physiotherapy students in a PBL module in order to inform curriculum development and enhance facilitation of learning at the Stellenbosch University Division of Physiotherapy. Methodology: A mixed-method, descriptive study was conducted during 2010. Physiotherapy students currently in their 3rd year of the course, completed the Revised Two-factor Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F) at the commencement of the academic year and again at the end of the first semester. The aim of this questionnaire is to determine the deep and surface approach toward learning of participants. Students also completed a perception of learning questionnaire and participated in focus group discussions to evaluate their perceptions and conceptions of learning in the module. Results of the three data instruments were analysed statistically, descriptively and phenomenographically, respectively. Results: There was a 100% response rate to the R-SPQ-2F and perception questionnaires, with only 6 out of 16 participants responding to invitations for focus group interviews. There were a statistically significant greater number of students who adopted a deep approach toward learning at the commencement of the academic year. An increase in those with a deep approach and a decrease in those with a surface approach toward learning were seen at the end of the first semester. This shift was however not significant. Students showed a trend toward an increase in their intrinsic interest in the learning material as the module progressed. Clinical reasoning and internalizing information were seen as two of the advantages of the instructional approach. Conversely, the disadvantages of the module included the perception that the instructional approach used is time consuming and concerns regarding quality and accuracy of learning material. The presence of dysfunctional group dynamics also plays a role in students perceptions of disadvantages in APT. Students conceived the module to have an effect on their approach toward learning and both personal and professional skills. Conclusion: The Applied Physiotherapy 373 module had no significant effect on students‟ approach toward learning. The results of this study however are not conclusive on why and how this lack of significant effect is present. Further research is needed to determine the long-term changes in approach toward learning and the possible determinants of these changes. This should be done in conjunction with implementation of quality assurance mechanisms for learning material, introduction of multi-media into PBL sessions and earlier preparation of students for the change in learning environment.

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