Issues in the Learning Context of Undergraduate Physiotherapy Programme at a Premier Medical School in Zambia

  • Christian C Ezeala DLitt et Phil, Professor, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Mulungushi University
  • Mary M Moleki DLitt et Phil, Professor and COD, Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa
  • Hastings Shula Lecturer, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, University of Zambia
  • Fastone M Goma Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Zambia


Background: Students’ perceptions of their learning environments influence their approaches to learning and the learning outcomes, and reflect a programme’s effectiveness. In Africa, literature on the learning environments of medical and health sciences education is scanty, and the issues impinging on effective education are not well documented. The objective of this study was to determine learners’ perceptions of the issues in the learning environment of undergraduate physiotherapy education at the University of Zambia.
Methods: Undergraduate physiotherapy students in years 2 to 5 were stratified according to level of study and randomly sampled. They were provided written information about the study, and consenting students were allowed to complete the DREEM questionnaire unassisted. Completed questionnaires were rated using a recommended guideline and their responses analysed quantitatively. Global, subscale, and item mean scores were calculated, and Cronbach’s alpha was determined as a measure of data reliability and internal consistency. The study was approved by ethics committees of two universities.
Results: Ninety-three students participated in the study. The response rate was 88.4 %. All classes rated the learning environment as ‘more positive than negative,’ with a mean global score of 123.2/200 (61.6 %). Scores within subscales (55.7–70.4 %) were comparable across the classes. Nine items scored below 2.0/4.0 indicating dissatisfaction. These included inadequate social support, teacher authoritarianism, and factual overload. Cronbach’s alpha for global scores was 0.896, and between 0.616 and 0.820 for subscale scores.
Conclusion: Though total DREEM scores showed overall positive perception of the learning environment by the students, item analysis showed students’ dissatisfaction with several aspects. This analysis of undergraduate students’ perceptions of the Physiotherapy learning environment provided insight into the phenomena in the programme and adds to the literature on learning environments of Physiotherapy education in Africa.


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