Does a Problem-solving Based Curriculum Develop Life-long Learning Skills in Undergraduate Students?

Clare Kell, Robert Van Deursen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background and purpose In preparing undergraduates for professions that require a commitment to continuing professional development, Higher Education has an obligation to ensure that its graduates have the ability, confidence and desire to continue as educationally self-directed learners. It is suggested that undergraduate curricula can be used to facilitate self-directed learning development. This study compared the learning profile development over time of two full-time BSc(honours) Physiotherapy cohorts (C94 and C98) who experienced different curricular presentations of the same syllabus. Curricular changes intended to facilitate self-directed learning development were introduced before the second cohort. Methods Both cohorts completed the Guglielmino (1977) Self-directed Learning Readiness Scale and the Rezler and French (1975) Learning Preference Inventory on admission, at four selected points during the three-year courses, and seven months after graduation. A repeated measures analysis of variance was used to test for cohort change with change over time tested using a first order polynomial contrast. Results Completed sample sizes were C94 = 31, C98 = 36. On admission both cohorts preferred a fact-based learning environment that was teacher-structured. Both curricula influenced students' learning profile development over time. C98 responded differently (p < 0.05) from C94. The former were better able to learn in student-structured, interpersonal and individual learning environments. Seven months after graduation, the learning environment flexibility of the C98 cohort had reduced. Conclusions C98 responded positively to the curricular changes introduced as an attempt to reduce dependence on the teacher of C94. However, these changes were short-term and did not extend into early postgraduate life, bringing into question the ability of the professional environment to reinforce and encourage fledgling postgraduate learning development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)523-530
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2003


    • self-directed learning
    • continuing professional development
    • undergraduate curriculum
    • learning profile development


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