Ova Emilia*, Leah Bloomfield**, Arie Rotem

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Replication of a Clinical Learning Environment Survey for Junior Medical Officers: a Study of Medical Students in an Indonesian Hospital                      

 Ova Emilia*, Leah Bloomfield**, Arie Rotem**

*School of Medicine, Gadjah Mada University, Jogjakarta, Indonesia; **School of Public Health and Community Medicine UNSW, Sydney, Australia

Please address correspondence to Leah Bloomfield, l.bloomfield@unsw.edu.au.


Background: Monitoring medical students’ hospital learning experiences requires an instrument that probes organisational and educational aspects of the environment.                                                                                                     Purposes: The study investigated the validity, reliability and practicality of a survey tool for probing the clinical learning environment used reported on the clinical learning environment in a major teaching hospital in Indonesia. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 209 clinical clerkship students was conducted in an Indonesian hospital. Methods of analysis included factor analysis, reliability studies, cross-tabs and univariate analysis of variance. Results: The survey tool revealed departmental differences in the clinical learning environment, as perceived by senior medical students. The clinical learning environment was described by three factors, which together account for 61.8% of the variance. The major factor, which we named the Conditions for Learning, is the organisational and psychosocial aspects, which consists of seven inter-correlated scales. Structural aspects of the environment are described by two factors, which cover opportunities to practise clinical skills, assessment, learning activities and resources.                                                                                                                                                                                                       Conclusion: The instrument is valid, reliable, practical and shows promise as a culture-neutral instrument for monitoring medical students’ perceptions of clinical learning environments.

Indexing terms: Clinical learning environment; medical student; survey; methodology

Ethics approval was obtained for this research



Consideration of the learning environment is essential to any discussion about curriculum, learning outcomes, quality improvement or change in medical education. Students’ perceptions of the learning environment or climate (Genn, JM, 2001) influence their behaviour and achievements (Lizzio, A, Wilson, K, & Simons, R, 2002). Data on students’ perceptions of the learning environment are needed in order to plan and monitor changes in curriculum.

Since (Hutchins, EB, 1961) study a number of instruments for characterising the medical school environment have been published. The Medical School Learning Environment Survey (Marshall, RE, 1978; Rothman, AI & Ayoade, F, 1970) (MSLES) has been used to track longitudinal changes in a single medical school (Clarke, RM, Feletti, GI, & Engel, C, 1984; Clarke, RM & Henry, RL, 1986) and to make comparisons between schools (Lancaster, CJ et al., 1997; Lieberman, SA, Stroup-Benham, CA, Peel, JL, & Camp, MG, 1997). More recently, the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure (Roff, S et al., 1997) (DREEM) has been used to compare medical schools in developed and developing countries (Al-Hazimi, A et al., 2004; Bassaw, B et al., 2003; Roff, S, S, M, Ifere, OS, & Bhattacharaya, S, 2001) and adaptations of DREEM have been used for specialty training (Cassar, K, 2004; Holt, MC & Roff, S, 2004).

Much of this work has been concerned with campus-based learning, with its orderly program of lectures, tutorials and practical sessions. In contrast the complex social, cultural, organisational, interactions in the hospital workplace make it a daunting educational environment for students (Seabrook, MA, 2004) . Learning is strongly influenced by the clinical workload, patient turnover, supervisor availability ((Rotem, A, Bloomfield, L, & Southon, G, 1996; Seabrook, MA, 2004) and from the students’ perspective, the curriculum-in-action is defined by the patients and the procedures they are able to observe and practise.

Previously we have used concepts from organisational theory to develop a clinical learning environment survey for junior doctors in Australian hospitals (Hart, G & Rotem, A, 1995; Rotem, A, Godwin, P, & Du, J, 1995). Studies using the survey demonstrated that hospital departments vary widely in the social and organisational aspects of the learning environment, at least in the views of junior medical staff. In the present study we wished to test whether this survey tool contributed to understanding how medical students learn in a major medical school in Indonesia. The study was part of a larger investigation of approaches and achievements of students learning in clinical settings.



We conducted a cross sectional study to test the psychometric properties of the instrument and to form an overview of the learning environment in a major Indonesian teaching hospital.

Instrument Development. Small adaptations were made to the junior medical officer survey (Rotem, Godwin & Du, 1995) to make it relevant to senior medical students’ perceptions of the learning environment of their most recent clinical rotation. Section 1 included 28 Likert scale items about the psychosocial and organisational climate of learning. Section 2 comprised Likert scale questions about access to generic learning resources (eg library facilities) and generic learning activities (eg lectures, ward rounds, bedside tutorials, outpatient clinics). We also asked about frequency of performance of required rotation-specific clinical skills and procedures. Inventories of specific clinical skills and procedures were developed in consultation with departmental coordinators. For example, the items in the internal medicine rotation included assessment of nutritional status, vital signs, hydration status, auscultation of lung, heart, abdomen etc. Section 3 included Likert scale items about the methods of assessment (eg, viva, written exams, projects, clinical exam) and students’ views about them. Sections 2 and 3 contained some items intended as a cross-check on the reliability of responses to Section 1.

Demographic information including, age, sex, type of rotation, GPA, and career intentions was gathered. The instrument was translated into Indonesian language and back-translated before pre-testing with 68 students, none of whom participated in the main study

Subjects and procedures. The survey was given to all students doing clinical clerkships at a major medical school in Indonesia. The surveys were completed anonymously in the final week of the clerkship. Qualitative data were collected by participant observers, from students' self-report diaries and through student focus groups. These results are not reported systematically but are discussed where they provide insight into the meaning of the quantitative findings.

Statistical analyses. All data were analysed using SPSS version 10 for Windows. Frequencies were computed for all scales, after reversing the responses for the negatively worded items. Factor analysis was performed using principal component factor analysis with oblimin rotation and Kaiser Normalization for each scale. Chi-square was used to test for differences in demographic variables.

For univariate analysis of variance tests, we assigned numerical values to the Likert scale items. Psychosocial and organisational learning climate items and assessment items were scored from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Levels of provision of learning activities and resources were scored as from 0 (nil) to 3 (high). The sub-scale scores were summed to give scale scores. For opportunities to perform clinical skills and procedures, we computed standardised scores that allowed us to compare rates in departments with different numbers of skills.




The surveys were returned by 209 of 255 students (82.0%). Students were unevenly distributed across 13 different departments. The great majority (90%) were in the main teaching hospital; the remainder were in a peripheral hospital. The number of students per department ranged from 2 (1.0%) to 39 (18.7%). There were almost twice the number of men (64.1%) as women (35.9%) and approximately equal proportions of students in 4th year (45.4%) and 5th year (54.5%). Chi-square analysis showed that neither sex nor year of study was related to career intention. Female students had a slightly higher GPA (p<0.05). The responses to the cross-checking items about resources, opportunities to practise and assessment indicated that students responded consistently throughout the survey.

Factor analysis - validity and reliability testing

Factor analysis revealed eleven scales, which segregated as three factors with eigenvalue higher than 1.00 (see Tables 1 and 2) and together accounted for 61.8% of the variance. Inter-scale correlations were performed using Pearson's correlation (see Table 3).


Factor 1 explained 42.2% of the variance. The items segregated into the same seven scales as in the junior medical officer instrument: autonomy, supervision, social support, workload, role clarity, emphasis on teaching and learning and variety. All scales were represented by 4 items, except role clarity (3 items) and emphasis on teaching and learning (5 items). The seven scales were positively correlated; coefficients ranged from 0.29 to 0.64 (p=0.01, 2-tailed). This result validates our earlier finding that the seven scales constitute a holistic construct, which we named Conditions for Learning (CL). Factor 2 consisted of general learning activities and resources and accounted for 10.2% variance. Factor 3 explained 9.4% of variance and consisted of opportunities to perform rotation-specific clinical skills and assessment. Analysis showed an acceptable level of reliability. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.86, 0.49 and 0.38 respectively for Factors 1,2, and 3. The reliability of the Conditions for Learning (CL) factor was high (0.96) and the reliability of the seven component scales (from 0.60 to 0.85) was comparable to the junior medical officer instrument.


These results suggested that the survey was valid and reliable for medical students in this teaching hospital in Indonesia. Larger, multi-site studies are needed to more thoroughly examine the psychometric properties.

Students’ perceptions of the learning environment

Conditions for Learning: Overall, perceptions of the conditions for learning were mildly positive. More than half of the students agreed that there was an emphasis on teaching and learning (56.9%) and sufficient variety of patients and procedures (65.7%). Twice as many students had positive perceptions of supervision (46.6%) as negative (26.3%). For social support, autonomy and role clarity, positive and negative perceptions were evenly balanced. About half the students (52.3%) perceived the workload as being reasonable. Around 20 to 25% of students had generally negative perceptions of the conditions for learning and a further 13 to 26% were non-committal. Looking at each scale in more detail, for emphasis on teaching and learning , about two thirds (62.7%), felt that staff saw teaching as a major aspect of their role, provided ward rounds and tutorials (63.2%) and encouraged students to ask questions (69.9%). Fewer students thought staff were keen to demonstrate and explain (42.6%) and that clerkship coordinator was educationally active (46.6%). For social support, about half (57.4%) felt relationships were friendly, felt supported in their attempts to learn (48.8%) and felt part of the team (49.3%). Fewer students felt that senior staff were interested in how they were coping (18.2%). About half rated supervision positively overall (46.6%), found staff accessible and willing to provide guidance (53.6%) and were given feedback when doing procedures for the first time (52.6%). Fewer (32.5%) found the general level of feedback was sufficient and 21.1% were left on their own in situations when they were not sure what to do. In terms of autonomy, almost half (45.5%) felt they had reasonable freedom to set their own priorities regarding their clinical activities and felt their autonomy increased as their skills increased (42.6%). About two thirds (63.6%) felt the workload was quite reasonable and clerical duties were not burdensome (71.3%) although fewer (39.7%) felt that their time was used productively. Around one third ((34.4%) had enough time for reflection on their learning experiences. In terms of role clarity, more students were given clear instructions about their roles in relation to staff (65.1%) than about their responsibilities (43.5%). Almost half (42.6%) felt they were given mixed messages. Two thirds of students agreed that there was enough variety in types of clinical procedures (63.6%) and types of patients (67.0%).

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