The Australian DREEM: evaluating student perceptions of academic learning environments within eight health science courses

Ted Brown1, Brett Williams2 and Marty Lynch1

1Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia

2Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia

Submitted: 21/06/2011; Accepted: 06/09/2011; Published: 13/09/2011

Int J Med Educ. 2011; 2:94-101; doi: 10.5116/ijme.4e66.1b37

© 2011 Ted Brown et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: The purpose of this cross sectional study is to investigate student perceptions of learning environments at a major Australian University. Various aspects of environment are compared between courses, year levels, educational backgrounds and gender.

Methods: The Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure (DREEM) and a demographic questionnaire were completed by 548 undergraduate students enrolled in the emergency health, midwifery, radiography and medical imaging, occupational therapy, pharmacy, nutrition and dietetics, physiotherapy and social work courses at Monash University. Convenience sampling was used and scores were compared across grouping variables identified via demographic information.

Results: Scores across the sample were fairly high (M = 137.3; SD = 18.3), indicating an overall positive perception of learning environments among students. Total scores were significantly higher for females (M = 138.8; SD = 17.2) than males (M = 132.3; SD = 20.7; t[sub](545)[/sub] = 3.51; p = 0.002) and this trend was consistent across all aspects of perceived learning environment (although not always significant). Students who enrolled in their course directly after completing high school yielded less positive ratings on some DREEM subscales than students who did not enrol immediately after completing high school.

Conclusions: The positive perception held by Monash University health science students towards their education and learning environments is hopefully indicative of similar courses within Australia and internationally. While future studies may help confirm this, the current findings offer a chance to explore the underlying causes of this positivity in more depth as well as compare similarities and differences between the specific health science disciplines.