Interventions Designed to Improve the Learning Environment in the Health Professions: A Scoping Review

Larry D. Gruppen, D Irby, Steven Durning, Lauren A. Maggio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: To identify and describe interventions designed to affect the learning environment (LE) in health professions education, summarize factors that influence the LE, and determine gaps that require additional research. The LE can be thought of as a dynamic and complex construct co-created by people in a particular setting. A positive LE represents a welcoming climate for learning, which enhances satisfaction, well-being, academic performance and collaboration, while a negative LE restricts participation and learning, leading to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and burnout.

Method: A six-step scoping review methodology was followed to identify and report on literature that describes interventions affecting the LE in the health professions education: 1. Identify the research question, 2. Identify relevant studies, 3. Select studies to be included, 4. Chart the data, 5. Collate, summarize and report results, and 6. Consult with stakeholders.

Results: 2,201 unique citations were identified and reviewed using titles and abstracts. 240 full-text articles were retained for detailed review, resulting in the inclusion of 68 articles. Study results are reported in relation to essential components of the LE: personal, social, organizational, physical and virtual spaces. Results of four different types to the studies of the LE are described: specific interventionsimpacting the LE, comparisonsof perceptions of the LE by two or more different groups, associations with other variable such as well-being with the LE, and descriptivestudies of the LE. Major influences included accreditation regulations, curricular interventions, faculty/staff development grading practices, instructional interventions, placements, physical and virtual spaces, and support services; and are reported along with specific interventions.

Conclusion: These results reflect the complexity of the LE and the need for conceptual clarity. Since the quality of the evidence was not evaluated, the identified influences should be viewed as potential opportunities to improve the LE.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • learning environment
  • Health Professions
  • Scoping Review


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