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Is it possible to enhance the confidence of student dietitians prior to professional placements? A design‐based research model

Ross, L. J., Mitchell, L. J., Williams, L. T.
Journal of human nutrition and dietetics 2017 v.30 no.5 pp. 588-595
curriculum, dietetics, dietitians, food service management, models, public health, students, surveys, t-test
BACKGROUND: Student confidence is an important contributor to a successful professional placement experience. The present study aimed to evaluate a placement preparation program for student dietitians and to assess the impact on self‐rated confidence with respect to commencing placements. METHODS: The present study is part of a design‐based research approach that involves students in a cyclic enquiry to evaluate and improve curricula. Nutrition and Dietetics students at an Australian university participated in a 1‐week mandatory workshop – Pre‐Placement week (PrePW), N = 98 students: in 2015 (n = 54) and 2016 (n = 44). An online survey was conducted before and after PrePW using a five‐point Likert scale (1 = not confident; 5 = very confident) to assess self‐rated confidence to commence placements. Mean (SD) scores were calculated. Paired and independent t‐tests evaluated within‐ and between‐group differences, respectively. RESULTS: Before PrePW, the mean (SD) for student confidence to commence placements overall (in all areas of practise) was ‘somewhat confident’ [2.9 (0.6) in 2015 and 3.0 (0.7) in 2016]. Students were least confident to commence Clinical Practice [2015: 2.5 (0.6); 2016: 2.8 (0.6)] compared to Food Service Management (FSM) [2015: 3.2 (0.9); 2016: 3.1 (0.9)] and Community and Public Health Nutrition (CPHN) [2015: 3.3 (0.9); 2016: 3.2 (0.8)]. Student feedback from PrePW 2015 was used to change the curriculum and PrePW program. The 2016 students reported significantly greater confidence within all areas of practice: Clinical Practice [3.4 (0.6)], FSM [3.7 (0.6)] and CPHN [3.8 (0.6)], including confidence to commence placements overall [3.6 (0.6)] (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Design‐based research provides a useful framework for improvement to curricula and, in this case, was successful in enhancing student confidence in preparation for professional placement.