Open Laboratory Attendance and Dpt Student Self-Directed Learning, Approaches to Learning, Self-Efficacy and Academic Performance
Purpose/Hypothesis: Open laboratory (OL) is unstructured time for graduate students to engage in self-directed learning. Despite its anecdotal usefulness to student learning, there is a gap in contemporary literature demonstrating its effectiveness. OL is non-mandatory, has no objectives, and can be used to either practice clinical skills or ask content questions from graduate assistants. Literature supports that attendance is a key contributor to a students’ academic performance as well as their self-directed learning readiness, approach to learning and self-efficacy. It has been shown that high attendance, high self-directed learning readiness (SDLR), a deep approach to learning and high self-efficacy (SE) predict better academic performance. The purpose of the study is to see how student attendance to OL influences their academic performance and also how person-specific factors influence their attendance. Number of Subjects: The participants in the study were 29 first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students ranging from age 20 to 33 years old. There were 5 male and 24 female participants. The students were in their third semester (of 9) of a DPT program at a small, private university in the northeast region. Materials and Methods: Data was collected during the second half of a DPT modalities course. Prior to practical and written examinations, all subjects completed the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale for Nursing Education Questionnaire (SDLRSNE), Revised Two Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F) and Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire, Self-Efficacy Subsection (MSLQ). OL attendance data was self-reported as the amount of time spent each visit and academic performance data was collected at the conclusion of the course. The relationships between OL attendance and academic performance, OL and person specific characteristics, and academic performance and person specific characteristics were examined with one-way ANOVA and t-test analysis. Following significant findings with the ANOVA test, post-hoc t-tests were conducted comparing independent variables (self-directed learning readiness, and age) with OL attendance, and status (post-baccalaureate students versus early assurance students) with academic performance, specifically written exam score. The statistical software used for analysis was SPSS 25. Results: ANOVA analysis of OL attendance and personal characteristics revealed a significant effect of SDLR on median open lab attendance (hours) at the P < 0.05 level [F(3, 6) = 28.696, P = 0.000]. ANOVA findings showed a significant effect of age on average time spent in OL (hours) [F(3, 17) = 3.610, P = 0.009] and an effect of age on median time spent in OL (hours) [F(3, 17) = 4.832, P = 0.002]. Upon further analysis of post-hoc t-tests, no significance was found for any of these variables. ANOVA of academic performance and students’ personal characteristics showed a significant result for status (post baccalaureate vs. early assurance) and final written examination score [F(1, 27) = 4.502, P = 0.043]. Upon further analysis, there was a significant difference between early accepted students (M=81.0, SD= 7.920) and post-baccalaureate students (M = 87.82, SD = 8.925) conditions; t(27) = -2.122, P = 0.43). Conclusions: Findings for OL attendance, specifically median time spent in OL and average time spent in OL, demonstrated initial significant findings with ANOVA analysis. Similarly, an ANOVA analysis demonstrated significant relationships between median time spent in OL and SDLR. These results, however, did not hold up on post-hoc analysis. This is different than what we expected, likely because of the low power of the study as a result of a small sample size. Additionally, students in this graduate doctoral program are required to receive a B or higher in each course to remain in the program and therefore are expected to perform well academically, causing a lack of variability of the academic performance and personal characteristics data. Lastly, 74% of the total cohort participated in the study and we hypothesize that the remaining 26% of the cohort may have increased the variability of the results. The findings related to written exam score and status in post-hoc t-test analysis, indicated that post-baccalaureate students scored higher on the written exam than the early assurance students. This finding is consistent with our hypothesis that post baccalaureate students would have higher written examination scores based on the adult learning theory - adult learners are more practical, problem-focused and self-directed learners. Limitations to this study include small sample size, which limits the power of the results. Following a single cohort also limits the generalizability of this study. Moreover, the specific curriculum studied is largely problem based, which has been shown to promote more SDLR and decreased the variability in the cohort. Clinical Relevance: The additional component of open laboratory in a Doctorate of Physical Therapy programs may or may not improve students' academic performance. Despite this inconclusive evidence, given the small sample size, it may be worth further investigation.