Self-Directed Learning Skills and Clinical Performance: A Comparison of Traditionally Taught and Learning Contract-Taught Nursing Students

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Studies and Research

First Advisor

John Rachal

Advisor Department

Educational Studies and Research


Historically, nursing education has utilized a teacher-directed approach to education. The increasing body of knowledge and complex technologies characteristic of the health care system of today dictate that graduates of nursing programs must be capable of continued and self-directed learning throughout their nursing practice. The purpose of this study was to determine if traditionally-taught nursing students and learning contract-taught nursing students differed in self-directed learning skills and clinical performance. In addition the purpose was to determine which group of students categorized according to learning style in the learning contract- and traditionally-taught groups had the highest score in self-directed learning skills and clinical performance. During the summer session of 1989, the self-directed learning readiness scores (Guglielmino, 1978) and learning style (Kolb, 1985) of 86 freshmen and senior nursing students were determined. The nursing students were divided into groups with one-half of the groups, in the clinical component of two nursing courses, taught with traditional methods and the other half taught with learning contracts. Faculty working with the learning contract groups were oriented to the use of learning contracts as a teaching method. At the end of the semester, student clinical performance scores and post self-directed learning readiness scores were obtained. Using multiple linear regression, Chi-square and analysis of variance, the analysis of data revealed there was a significant relationship between teaching method and the dependent variables with the mean scores in clinical performance and self-directed learning higher in the traditionally-taught groups. The analysis also indicated that the Accommodators had the highest clinical performance mean scores and self-directed learning readiness scores.