How do surgical trainees engage in self-directed learning in the workplace?

  • Sethi H
  • Smith S
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Aim: This exploratory study aims to generate a deeper understanding about learning strategies employed by surgical trainees, their engagement in self-directed learning and perceptions about self-assessment. Methods: A qualitative study based on grounded theory using digitally recorded in-depth semi-structured interviews with nine surgical trainees (ST3-8) within the Yorkshire rotation. Results: The emerging themes reached saturation; trainees were motivated to learn for extrinsically set milestones (exams), intrinsically to feel competent and most importantly for problem solving. Most trainees emphasised 'learning by doing', although acquisition of theoretical knowledge was considered important. Trainees planned their route towards a consultant position in collaboration with their mentor and deanery. Trainees found work-based assessments cumbersome and rating scales of little value. They prefer timely face-toface feedback from trainers trained to provide constructive feedback. Most people are reflective learners but prefer private reflection to formal reflective writing; they equated self-assessment to reflection-on-action, using peer performance as a yard stick to measure their own ability. Conclusions: Central themes emerging from this pilot study, including learning by doing, self and peer assessment and feedback will be explored further with a larger sample, using a questionnaire. This may generate data to inform improved implementation of the current assessment system.




Sethi, H., & Smith, S. (2013). How do surgical trainees engage in self-directed learning in the workplace? International Journal of Surgery, 11(8), 696.

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