Our third year, semester one physiotherapy programme aims to integrate knowledge gained from the previous two years as well as “step up” from a NCEA level six to level seven paper (Table 1). This includes a shift from a more teacher-directed approach to that being mainly student-directed learning (SDL). This in itself required an integration of knowledge from multiple papers (fields), problem-solving unfamiliar (and at times complex) scenarios and learning through leading others in the development of problem solutions. In student feedback of papers in semester one, year three, students identified as being (somewhat understandably) anxious of the workload; felt unclear as to where to start; and that “bringing it together” was overwhelming. These concerns, therefore, reflected on a paper that I coordinate (PHTY710) in that semester.
Table 1: NZQF Level 5-10 Descriptors (adapted from Table 2, The New Zealand Qualifications Framework p30)
In order to capture anticipated SDL habits, barriers to learning and confidence in skills related to the paper. To do this I developed a Google Form survey which was delivered in the first lecture of the paper. First, I mapped out the types of questions I wanted to include (study group involvement; anticipated SDL hours; barriers to learning; and confidence in practical assessment and treatment skills). From there, the development of the Google Form survey was relatively easy. On opening a new form, a brief description was provided. While I had just done this verbally in the lecture, I wanted to acknowledge that the purpose of students entering their personal email was to receive in individual “snapshot” of their learning (which they could return to compare at a later date). Lecturers did not respond to individual reflections, rather, looked at the overall summary.
Reflection on Benefits
I chose Google Forms to develop the survey for a number of reasons that were beneficial:
- It is free. While there are other online survey platforms available, they sometimes come with limits to access to some of the editing tools and/ or how many responses you are able to collect before you have to pay. Google Forms does not have these limits and has some third-party plugins that can be utilised to export data into other software platforms
- It is linked to Google Drive. As a novice to Google Drive, I have been trying to utilise it as best I can. Like other “cloud-based” storage systems, you are able to share a link to the document; and can edit to meet your needs as time goes by. Previously I have set up a link to a document/ form with a Bitly address or QR Code to find that it is “not quite right”, though adapting the form would require changing the link and code. With Google Drive, you do not need to make these changes as long as the original document you are amending is in the Drive.
- It is (mostly) familiar. Students here in New Zealand have been made aware of the use of Google Drive and Google for Education platform since primary school (year three- 6-7-year-olds). Therefore, access, the look, expectations for submission did not need too much explanation.
- Data can be exported. Again, similar to (1) above, the quantitative and qualitative data can be easily exported to third-party platforms freely. While analysis could be made in Google Sheets- I am personally still too familiar with formulas in Excel to give that up.
Reflection on Constraints
- It requires smart devices or laptops to work. If you want to capture data immediately (as was the case for this survey to enable a 24hour turnaround of interpretation to direct integration in the tutorials)- then students need to have brought their devices with them. This could be pre-empted by sending an announcement to the student prior to the lecture.
- It requires reliable wifi. A couple of years ago- this would have been problematic in our University, though thankfully, not the case now. This is something to consider for those that are performing the survey at a distance or in remote, rural areas.
- It is not familiar with non-school leavers. As this was a class of third-year students, the majority had transitioned to having smart devices and use of technology. The format of online surveys was less familiar to those that had not recently left the secondary school environment. That said- I had no “mature” students identify an issue with completing the survey, and as I could see the names of the respondents, they had completed the form just as ably as their younger counterparts…
As the survey was conducted in the lecture, the response rate was 93% (120/ 129). The summary of results was collated easily as was using Google Forms analytics. The result summaries were then used to develop the tutorials for that week (i.e. the next three days) and were presented to the small groups which are between 18 and 25 students.
Study work barriers
This survey found that less than half (48.3%) had not established themselves in study groups. As this was the beginning of a new year, students are rearranged into new groups according to the papers they are taking- therefore may have had an effect on already established groups. 44% (n=57) indicated that they would be studying alongside work commitments; 1% (n=9) with high-level sports commitments; 28% (n=36) had a family commitment that may be barriers to their SDL for the paper. These barriers were not surprising, though the extent to how many were required to continue to work, sport and family commitments was somewhat revealing. The work-study-life balance is one that potentially requires more emphasis as students enter full-time study and/ or when the academic level of expectations increases.
In a recent survey across seven universities in Canada, students expressed concern with balancing work, family, and education (20.8%), failing to set aside enough time for study while meeting personal, family and social obligations (14.4%) (Sauve, Fortin, Viger, & Landry, 2018). In a sample population of 2291 college and university students aged 18- 26 years of age, it was found that working while studying reduced the amount of time spent in class by 47 minutes and on SDL by 56 minutes, with other extracurricular activities (i.e. sport) lead to 22 minutes less SDL. (Crispin & Nickolaou, 2018).
It was also interesting to see the overestimate of SDL hours that students felt they would be completing towards this paper. While the majority (58.3%) mentioned 5-9 hours; they were some that thought they would be committing 10- 14 hours (9.2%) or 15-19 hours (5%). If combined with other papers to be completed in the semester, this would equate to up to 76 SDL hours alone… A summary of the results was able to be presented during the tutorial time, as was reassurance that our expectation of SDL hours was much less than what some had indicated.
Impact on Teaching, Learning or Pedagogy
Confidence of Skills
The main purpose of the survey was to help the students to identify early what skills they were confident with as they entered the paper. Skills that the students were “less confident” with were integrated into the planning of the tutorials for the first week using problem-based learning- informed and impacted by the survey gathered just the day previous. Some students just needed a few pointers as reassurance that they did know the information required, while for others it was a “gentle reminder” to include it in their study plan…
End of Semester Review
We issued the survey again at the end of the semester to identify progression and to focus again on skills that they were less confident with two weeks prior to the examinations. These practical skills were focused on in the “review” tutorials that were again case based. It was pleasing to see that students identified an average of 9% improved confidence in performing all 34 skills (range 2- 19%). New skills introduced in the paper were also rated on confidence, though could be reviewed again before the students enter their “intern” fourth year of the programme.
Crispin, L.M. & Nicolaou, D. (2018). Work and play take school time away? The impact of extracurricular and work time on educational time for live-at-home college students. Applied Economics, 50(24), 2698- 2718. Doi: 10.1080/00036846.2017.1406656
Sauve, L., Fortin, A., Viger, C. & Landry, F. (2018). Ineffective learning strategies: a significant barrier to post-secondary perseverance. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42(2), 205- 222. Doi: 10.1080/13504851.2017.1343443