Students' perceptions towards self-directed learning in Ethiopian medical schools with new innovative curriculum: A mixed-method study

Haftom Hadush Kidane, Herma Roebertsen, Cees P.M. van der Vleuten

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20 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Self-directed learning (SDL) is an appropriate and preferred learning process to prepare students for lifelong learning in their professions and make them stay up-to-date. The purpose of this study was to explore preclinical students following a hybrid curriculum in Ethiopia experiences to SDL and the support of several learning activities from the curriculum on their SDL. A mixed-method research design was employed. Methods: Quantitative data were collected by using a self-administered questionnaire of 80 items measuring students' perceptions on their SDL capability as well as to explore students' views about the influence of components of the curriculum on their SDL. Additional two focus group discussions, each containing eight participants from year-1 and year- 2 students, were conducted. The quantitative data were analyzed using SPSS. The focus group discussions were reviewed, coded, and then thematically analyzed. Results: Our study showed a significant increase in SDL score on comparing students at year-1 with students at year-2 (p = 0.002). Both year-1 and 2 students rated PBL tutorial discussion and tutors had high influence on their individual learning; whereas, other curricular components such as lectures and testes had low influence on their SDL ability. PBL tutorial discussion and module objectives showed strong correlation with students' SDL scores, r = 0.718 & r = 0.648 (p < 0.01), respectively. Besides, PBL tutorial discussion was found strongly correlated with tutors (r = 0.599 (p < 0.01)) and module objectives (r = 0.574 (p < 0.01)). Assessment was highly correlated with lectures (r = 0.595 (p < 0.01)). Findings from qualitative data showed that certain curricular components played role in promoting students' SDL. Tutorials analyzing problems played a major role on students' self-directed learning abilities. Conclusions: Although the study implied that components of the hybrid curriculum, mainly PBL, could encourage preclinical students' self-directed learning, the curriculum is still not free from teacher-centred culture as the majority of teachers still have high power in deciding the learning process. A further longitudinal study is needed to verify the actual level and ability of medical students' SDL.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • Ethiopia
  • Hybrid curriculum
  • Preclinical students
  • Self-directed learning


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