Exploring perceptions of the educational environment among undergraduate physiotherapy students

Per J. Palmgren1, Ingrid Lindquist2, Tobias Sundberg2, Gunnar H. Nilsson2 and Klara B. Laksov1

1Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

2Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Submitted: 31/01/2014; Accepted: 21/06/2014; Published: 19/07/2014

Int J Med Educ. 2014; 5:135-146; doi: 10.5116/ijme.53a5.7457

© 2014 Per J. Palmgren 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 aim of this study was to explore areas of strength and weakness in the educational environment as perceived by undergraduate physiotherapy students and to investigate these areas in relation to the respondents' demographic characteristics.

Methods: This study utilized a cross-sectional study design and employed the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure, a 50-item, self-administered inventory relating to a variety of topics directly pertinent to educational environments. Convenience sampling was used, and the scores were compared across demographic variables. All undergraduate physiotherapy students in their first five terms of the programme in a major Swedish university were invited to participate in the study.

Results: A total of 222 students (80%) completed the inventory. With an overall score of 150/200 (75%), the students rated the educational environment in this institution as "more positive than negative". Two items consistently received deprived scores - authoritarian teachers and teaching with an overemphasis on factual learning. Students in term 4 differed significantly from others, and students with earlier university education experience perceived the atmosphere more negatively than their counterparts. There were no significant differences with regards to other demographic variables.

Conclusions: This study provides valuable insight into how undergraduate physiotherapy students perceive their educational environment. In general, students perceived that their educational programme fostered a sound educational environment. However, some areas require remedial measures in order to enhance the educational experience.