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Effect of an Undergraduate Medical Curriculum on Students Self-Directed Learning

Harvey, Bart J. MD, PhD; Rothman, Arthur I. EdD; Frecker, Richard C. MD, PhD

Research Report

Purpose. Lifelong, self-directed learning (SDL) has been identified as an important ability for medical graduates. To evaluate the effect of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine’s revised undergraduate medical curriculum on students’ SDL, a cross-sectional study was conducted.

Method. A questionnaire package was mailed to 280 randomly selected students, 70 from each of the four years of the curriculum. The package contained the two most widely recognized, extensively used, and validated instruments of SDL (Guglielmino’s 58-item Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale and Oddi’s 24-item Continuous Learning Inventory) and Ryan’s two-part Self-Assessment Questionnaire. An identification number and sociodemographic questions were included with the questionnaires. Data analysis was completed using chi-square for differences of proportions, analysis of variance for differences between means, and linear regression for trends.

Results. A total of 250 (89.3%) complete questionnaire packages were returned. No significant trend in SDL was evident by curriculum year, and similar SDL levels were observed for women and men. However, a significant positive trend in SDL was found with the highest level of premedical education achieved (undergraduate only, masters, or doctoral). Further, students’ perceptions concerning the importance of SDL decreased according to year in the curriculum.

Conclusion. This study found no evidence that students’ self-reported SDL is positively influenced by the current undergraduate medical curriculum at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Harvey is assistant professor, Department of Public Health Sciences; Dr. Rothman is professor, Department of Medicine, Institute of Medical Science, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education; and Dr. Frecker is professor, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine and Department of Pharmacology. All are at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Bart J. Harvey, MD, PhD, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, 4032-12 Queen’s Park Crescent West, Toronto, Canada M5S 1A8; e-mail: 〈bart.harvey@utoronto.ca〉.

© 2003 Association of American Medical Colleges