|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 182-187
Students' perceptions of the educational environment measured using the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure inventory in a dental school of Bhubaneswar city, Odisha
Avinash Jnaneswar, Vinay Suresan, Kunal Jha, Diptajit Das, Goutham Bala Subramaniam, Gunjan Kumar
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Kalinga Institute of Dental Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
|Date of Web Publication||10-Jun-2016|
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Kalinga Institute of Dental Sciences, KIIT University, Campus-5, Patia, Bhubaneswar - 751 024, Odisha
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Introduction: Education is an igniting force amidst an obscure world bringing illumination into forefront. Understanding an educational program can assist with quality assurance by identifying where a program can be improved. Fundamental right of students to freely express their views and their active role in the decision-making process is a cornerstone of any academic program. Aim: The aim of this study is to assess students' perceptions of educational environment using Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure (DREEM). Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional, descriptive, questionnaire-based study was conducted in a private dental school of Bhubaneswar city. The study population included 194 undergraduate students of the 3rd and final year, who were personally approached by the investigator to complete the questionnaire (response rate 88.14%). Data were analyzed using SPSS 18.0 program. Comparisons were done using Student's t-test. Results: The mean DREEM score of the study sample indicated a positive learning perception (119.65 ± 19.68). There was a statistically significant difference between genders with respect to mean scores of perception of teachers. Conclusions: Dental students rated their learning environment as positive. It gives a valuable insight as to how students' view the course, enabling the school to address specific concerns.
Keywords: Dental school, education, feedback, perception, students
|How to cite this article:|
Jnaneswar A, Suresan V, Jha K, Das D, Subramaniam GB, Kumar G. Students' perceptions of the educational environment measured using the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure inventory in a dental school of Bhubaneswar city, Odisha. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2016;14:182-7
|How to cite this URL:|
Jnaneswar A, Suresan V, Jha K, Das D, Subramaniam GB, Kumar G. Students' perceptions of the educational environment measured using the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure inventory in a dental school of Bhubaneswar city, Odisha. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Aug 19];14:182-7. Available from: http://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2016/14/2/182/181899
| Introduction|| |
In the world of obscurity, education can serve as an igniting force bringing illumination to the forefront. It would be right to say that education is the bedrock and building blocks for societal transformation and for the sustenance of any meaningful development. Education attained is directly proportional to a conducive learning environment.
Learning environment refers to the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn. The term also encompasses the culture of a school or class – its presiding ethos and characteristics, including how individuals interact with and treat one another. In this kind of environment, students develop a sense of self-esteem that when combined with basic knowledge, skills, and values, it stands them in good stead, enabling them to make informed decisions throughout life. Research on educational environment has shown that there is a high price to be paid for a dysfunctional learning environment. In a positive academic environment, there must be special consideration for the well-being of students in terms of overall workload (hours spent in school and studying or preparing for examinations) and facilities, provide stimuli and resources for students to effectively use all available means to broaden their horizons including extracurricular activities which can make a difference in the overall experience of their studies.,
There is a proven connection between the environment, curriculum and the outcomes of students' achievement, satisfaction, and success. Innovations in curricula and increasing diversity of the student population have led to increasing recognition of both a desire and need to evaluate the educational environment. A cornerstone of any academic program and university school in general is the fundamental right of students to freely express their views and play an active role in the decision-making process. They must feel part of the process rather than alienated from strategizing their own education. The input of the students, the stakeholders, has been overlooked far too much. Thus, the significance of students providing feedback for curriculum planning and change is indisputable.
A quantitative measurement of the educational environment requires the use of inventory or instrument. A valid and reliable learning environment tool allows a meaningful measure of the learning environment of an institution, and thus appropriate measures to improve the environment can be taken. Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure (DREEM) was developed as a generic, culturally nonspecific assessment tool of the educational environment by an assembly of a Delphi panel of faculty members from international medical schools/health professions and then tested on students in several countries for validation purposes. DREEM has been used in more than 20 countries and translated into at least eight different languages., DREEM inventory is also applied to healthcare professionals of which medical students/graduates (interns or residents), nursing students, and dental students are assessed. An added advantage of DREEM is to explore a number of issues such as investigating perception of the current educational environment,, identifying its strength and weakness,, precursor to curriculum change,, and impact of a new/revised curriculum on perception of educational environment.,,
Hence, the aim of the current study was to assess the students' perceptions of their educational environment measured using the DREEM inventory. This study also has objectives to compare the perceptions of the educational environment between the year of study, gender, and achievement status.
| Materials and Methods|| |
A cross-sectional, descriptive, questionnaire-based study was conducted in a private dental school of Bhubaneswar city, Odisha, India. This dental school has a total of 431 undergraduate students studying in the academic year of 2014–2015. Ethical clearance was obtained from the Institute Ethics Committee (KIMS/KIIT/IEC/092/2015). All participants signed an informed consent before administering the questionnaire and also were asked not to reveal their identity. Data collection was carried out from March to April 2015.
The DREEM is a 50-item, closed-ended questionnaire which is scored on a five-point Likert scale. DREEM scores are analyzed at three different levels; individual items, subscales, and overall DREEM as done in previous studies.,,,, The reliability coefficient for questions in each of the subscale was calculated using Cronbach's alpha (α= 0.97).
The study population included the undergraduate students of the 3rd and final year Bachelor of Dental Surgery course as they were exposed to clinical training and handled patients. The sampling frame comprised 194 students who were personally approached by the investigator to complete the questionnaire. One hundred and seventy-one students participated in the study. The response rate for the study was 88.14%. Prior to data collection, a pilot study was conducted on 40 subjects from a different year of study other than the population selected to assess the uniform interpretation of the questions. The pilot study sample was not included in the main study.
Data were imported to SPSS 18.0 [Chicago: SPSS Inc] program to draw the means and standard deviation between year of study, gender, and achievement status and compare the same using Student's t- test. The students who failed at least once in the university examinations were classified as under-achievers while those who did not experience failure till the day of survey were classified as achievers. A P < 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.
| Results|| |
Among the total 171 subjects, 65 (38%) were males and 106 (62%) were females. Subjects comprised 82 (48%) 3rd year and 89 (52%) final year students. Among the total subjects, 46 (27%) were academic under-achievers and the remainder 125 (73%) were academic achievers. The total DREEM scores range from 0 to 200.
The mean DREEM score of the study population (n = 171) was 119.65 ± 19.68 which indicated a more positive than negative learning perception. The comparison of mean DREEM scores between year of study, gender, and achievement status is presented in [Table 1]. The DREEM scores obtained for the five individual subscales along with the number of items reflecting problematic areas are presented in [Table 2]. All the sub-scales give us an average inference.
|Table 1: Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure scores obtained among different groups|
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|Table 2: Interpretation of Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure sub-scale scores and identification of problematic areas (n=200)|
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There was no statistically significant difference observed between the years of study of the subjects among the DREEM sub-scales [Table 3]. On the contrary, students' perception of teachers subscale showed a statistically significant difference when compared between male and female subjects (P = 0.02) [Table 4]. DREEM subscale scores had no statistically significant difference when the responses from the achievers and under-achievers were compared [Table 5].
|Table 3: Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure sub-scale scores among different years (n=171)|
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|Table 4: Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure sub-scale scores between genders (n=171)|
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|Table 5: Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure sub-scale scores between achievers and under-achievers (n=171)|
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Eleven out of 50 items indicated problematic areas (mean score ≤2). However, the remaining 39 items indicated; a scope for improvement or enhancement (mean score 2–3). However, there were no items indicating positive areas (mean score ≥3.5) [Figure 1].
|Figure 1: Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure item scores obtained (n = 50)|
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| Discussion|| |
Teaching is known to be not only related to giving information and sharing experiences rather producing a contextual or/and environmentally related learning., It is well-known that curriculum is the most important determinant of the learning environment. As stated by Genn, “Curriculum generates and establishes environment.” We anticipated that there would be a positive learning environment in our school when assessed utilizing the DREEM inventory due to a more student-centered environment.
We had an acceptable participation from the students as it was evident in the response rate (88.14%). This showed that our response rate was above average in spite of the liberty affected to evade participation as there was no compulsion imposed upon them. On the other hand, the lowest response rate was obtained in a study conducted in Saudi Arabia (44.6%). In contrast, the highest response rate was obtained in studies conducted in Egypt (96.9%) and Saudi Arabia (97%).
The total DREEM means score in this study (120/200) was nearly comparable to the scores found for dental schools in Germany (123/200) and India (124/200). Literature review on studies conducted in various dental schools presented a range of scores: Saudi Arabia (101/200), Greece (112/200), Pakistan (115/200), India (116/200), India (126/200), and Nigeria (138/200). This variation may be attributed to a more student-centered curriculum showing a significantly higher DREEM scores (138/200) to a traditional curriculum showing the opposite (101/200). Yet another rationale behind this could be due to the results/immediate feedback of a newly restructured curriculum modified according to the students' feedback obtained earlier. These observations prove the fact that in student-centered curriculum, students are supposed to be more empowered and thus relatively have more responsibility and control of their learning environment. Based on this, curriculum planners now can assess the feedback from the students and higher scores if obtained from the DREEM inventory can be attributed to a positive change which has taken place.
Interpretation of five subscale mean scores revealed perceptions toward the positive side. Higher mean scores in subscale of students' academic self-perception (22/32) reflect a positive response to student-centered curriculum emphasizing long-term learning and problem-solving skills. On the contrary, the lowest score was observed in students' social self-perception subscale (17/28) which may reflect the stress in studying dentistry. The tedious and tiring nature of the course may reflect many areas of weakness which need further exploration and rectification.
The mean scores for students' perception of learning reflects a more positive perception (33/48). Similar scores were observed in studies conducted in India (31/48), Nigeria (34/48), and Pakistan (27/48). However, lower scores were obtained in a study conducted in Saudi Arabia (22/48). On exploring the items in the subscale in our study, it was seen that 2 items had a mean score ≤2 reflecting problematic areas. These areas were identified as over-emphasis of teaching over factual learning and the teaching being too teacher centered. This problem of factual learning may be due to the pattern of summative assessment in the curriculum. Reorientation and retraining of the staff members on appropriate teaching skills may be the key to do away with teacher-centered and factual learning, thereby building confidence among the students.
The mean scores for students' perception of teachers reflect that the teachers' way of teaching is moving in the right direction (30/44). Similar scores were obtained in studies conducted in India (28/44) and Nigeria (31/44). However, lower scores were obtained in a study conducted in Saudi Arabia (22/44). On exploring the items in the subscale in our study, it was seen that 3 items had a mean score ≤2 reflecting problematic areas. These areas were identified as the teachers ridicule the students; the teachers are authoritarian, and the teachers get angry in class. Teachers in dental institutions are more inclined toward traditional teaching styles and methods. Due to such methods, the students felt that they were unable to ask questions in fear of being ridiculed. It is important that the teachers realize that respect to students is important to the learning process. On the brighter side of these negative virtue of teachers, presented a knowledgeable picture of teachers in their minds and they would come well prepared for the class.
The mean scores for students' academic self-perception subscale reflects that the students have a positive perception. Similar scores were obtained in studies conducted in Hyderabad [India] (16/28), Chennai [India] (17/28); and Pakistan (20/32). On exploring the items in the subscale in our study, it was seen that 1 item had a mean score ≤2 reflecting problematic areas. This area was identified as the student was unable to memorize all that he/she needed. The students felt burdened by the academic workload and their main problem was that they were not able to memorize all that they needed. The low score in this item clearly indicates the need for revision of curriculum and course content.
The mean scores for students' perception of atmosphere reflect that the students had a more positive perception of the school atmosphere (30/48). Similar scores were obtained in studies conducted in Hyderabad [India] (29/48), Manipal [India] (31/48) and Nigeria (32/48). However, lower scores were obtained in a study conducted in Saudi Arabia (22/48). On exploring the items in the subscale in our study, it was seen that 2 items had a mean score ≤2 reflecting problematic areas. These areas were identified as cheating is a problem in this school and students irritate the teachers. Hospital clinics is a real and authentic environment not suitable for effective learning unless well planned and organized. The atmosphere is not perceived to be relaxed during clinical teaching and also during lectures. To overcome this, current contemporary learning techniques need to be implemented.
The mean scores for students' social self-perceptions reflect that their social self-perception was “not too bad” (17/28). Similar scores were obtained in studies conducted in Hyderabad [India] (16/28), Chennai [India] (17/28); Nigeria (18/28), and Pakistan (16/28). However, lower scores were obtained in a study conducted in Saudi Arabia (10/28). On exploring the items in the subscale in our study, it was seen that 3 items had a mean score ≤ 2 reflecting problematic areas. These areas were identified as there is a good support system for students who get stressed, rarely bored on this course and accommodation is pleasant. Again the academic schedule leaves them no time to socialize in spite of having good friends. This is a serious concern as they are too tired to enjoy their course. They feel bored because of the repetitive clinical procedures they have to perform in their clinical learning. This lack of good support system, bulky curriculum, and poor accommodation facilities should be discussed not only at the curriculum planners' level but also at the administrators.
A statistically significant gender difference (P < 0.05) has been noted in our study where female students' perception of teachers is more positive than that of male students. Similar results were also obtained in studies conducted in India , and in Argentina  with females, in general, being more critical about the quality of teaching.
No statistically significant difference between the 3rd year and final year subjects with respect to all five subscales was noted in our study. Contradicting this, a study conducted in India  reported statistically significant difference between the 3rd year and final year subjects with respect to students' perception of learning, students' perception of teachers, and students' perception of atmosphere. Mean scores of all the five subscales were lower in the final year and higher in the 3rd year subjects. This observation could be because the final year students were encouraged more toward self-directed learning. Furthermore, stress related to work completion and appearing for final examination may have attributed to lower scores.
In our study, the mean scores of all five sub-scales were higher for academic achievers as compared to the under-achievers. There were no studies comparing the perceptions between achievers and under-achievers conducted on dental schools. In line with our study, similar scores were reported in a medical school in India. The lower scores for under-achievers was mainly due to less satisfaction with their educational environment. On the other hand, a study conducted in India reported higher mean scores for all the sub-scales among under-achievers.
A limitation of this study was that a standard questionnaire with predetermined choices was used, and some of the factors affecting the dental school may have been left out. Another important drawback of this study was the self-reported nature of the study and role of the investigator in collecting data which may have contributed to biased results.
The results of this study should be supported by newer studies, especially with a combination of qualitative techniques. This will permit enhancement of the positive items and further investigation of the problematic areas to identify their root causes. To address any particular issue pertaining to the learning environment, a supplementary questionnaire can be administered. Another recommendation would be to involve a professional trained in human resource management who would use his skills to interact better with the subjects and to extract unbiased responses from them without the fear of their authoritarian teachers or the impact on their academics.
| Conclusions|| |
To get the best out of either the student or a teacher, the working environment has to be optimal. If it is congenial, the end result is definitely going to be better if the environment were to be stress-free. A change in the attitudes and approach is thus necessary for making the learning atmosphere congenial for the students and for molding them into competent professionals.
This sample of dental students rated their learning environment as positive. This study also bestows valuable insight as to how students view the course, thereby enabling the schools to address students-specific concerns. A better support system from the staff and senior students would help to mitigate most of the deficiencies in this dental school. There is an intimate link between positive perceptions of the environment and learning outcomes such as student behavior, achievement, satisfaction, and success.
The authors would like to thank Mr. Thejasvi, statistician for giving valuable insight into the statistical analysis of this study.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]