Saudi Journal for Health Sciences

: 2018  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 153--158

Self-directed learning readiness and learning styles among Taibah nursing students

Khalid Abdullah Aljohani, Doaa El Sayed Fadila 
 Department of Community Health Nursing, Nursing College, Taibah University, Madinah, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Khalid Abdullah Aljohani
Nursing College, Taibah University, Madinah
Saudi Arabia


Background: Advancements in nursing education programs stimulate the modifications in teaching and learning approaches to enhance nursing students' capabilities. Assessing students' learning styles and readiness to learn are essential components to guide such changes. Aim: This study aims to determine the nursing students' readiness for self-directed learning (SDL) and their learning styles. Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive, analytical research design was utilized in the present study. Two-hundred and thirteen nursing students studying two programs (regular and bridging) responded to the study instruments: demographics, SDL readiness (SDLR), and student-recorded responses to an online visual, aural/auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic (VARK) survey. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS (version 20) to identify the descriptive and bivariate outcomes. Results: The response rate was 76%. Learning style results showed that aural, read-write, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles accounted for 19.7%, 8.5%, 6.6%, and 25.8% of participants, respectively. Desire for learning subscales were statistically significant for gender (t = 1.985, P = 0.048), academic level (F = 2.969, P = 0.033), and mode (t = 3.610, P = 0.001). The overall SDLR scale scores were significant for residence (t = 4.938, P = 0.001) and learning style (F = 5.197, P = 0.002). Conclusion: The study revealed that participants prefer to learn using unimodal VARK modalities, and the dominant learning style was kinesthetic. The participants' level of readiness for SDL and their self-control were high compared to the other SDLR subscales. The results showed a significant connection between the participants' learning styles and the variables of their readiness for SDL.

How to cite this article:
Aljohani KA, Fadila DE. Self-directed learning readiness and learning styles among Taibah nursing students.Saudi J Health Sci 2018;7:153-158

How to cite this URL:
Aljohani KA, Fadila DE. Self-directed learning readiness and learning styles among Taibah nursing students. Saudi J Health Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Feb 17 ];7:153-158
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Despite the teacher-centered learning approaches implemented in various Middle East undergraduate programs, nursing students are facing different styles of learning methods that built around the constructivism approaches such as self-learning, critical thinking, brainstorming, problem-solving, and participate in educational projects with their peers.[1],[2],[3] Supporting this direction, the American National League for Nursing core competencies for nurse educators emphasizes nursing educators' roles in facilitating student's development and socialization by determining individual's learning style preferences and needs in the culturally diverse world. Furthermore, nurse educators should shift the control of the learning paradigm to the students.[4] Self-directed learning (SDL) is defined as a process in which students take the initiative to diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources for learning, select and implement learning strategies, and evaluate the learning outcomes.[5],[6]

On the other hand, learning style is the way a learner learns considering cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that affect how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment.[7] The nurse educator's role is to provide easy access to the learning resources that will benefit learners and provide guidance and outlets for critical thinking, brainstorming, various types of creative thinking, and establish ways to evaluate the benefits and limitations of their work.[2],[3],[8] Earlier studies in Saudi Arabia revealed the dominance of kinesthetic learning style among the nursing students.[9],[10]

SDL readiness (SDLR) and learning styles have been explored in numerous studies due to the need to understand the components and relationships among their constructs, which in turn, may enhance students' learning outcomes.[3],[11],[12] This study aims to determine the nursing students' readiness for SDL, identify their learning styles, and find the relation between SDLR and learning style in a Governmental Saudi University. The result of the study will provide evidence on nursing students' ability to benefit from the constructivism educational move, identify their ability to be independent lifelong learners, and identify potential cultural factors affecting their SDLR and learning style.



A cross-sectional analytical research design was utilized in the present study.


The study was undertaken at the college of nursing in a Government University. It is the Government University in Al-Madinah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Data were collected from both male and female sections during the period from October 1 to November 15, 2017.


The study sample was composed of nursing students (male and female) in their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years. As the college runs the two programs (Regular and Bridging), students at both programs were included in the study. First-year students were excluded because they undergo their 1st year to study the universal science stream outside the college of nursing. The researcher utilized the Survey Monkey sample size calculator to estimate the needed number of participants. With a population size of 514; confidence level of 95%; and margin of error of 5%, the estimated sample size was 221 students. However, 280 students were targeted to participate in the study to minimize the nonresponse potential effect.


The study instrument consists of three sections. The first is demographic data, including gender, age, marital status, place of residence, and type of academic program (Regular or Bridging). The second section is the SDLR scale for nursing education.[13] The scale was developed by Fisher–King (2010) to assist the nursing educators in the diagnosis of student's attitudes, abilities, and personality characteristics necessary for SDL. Permission to use the scale was granted by the authors through e-mail. In general, the scale consists of 29 items grouped under the three subscales: Self-management, which reflects the characteristics of being able to manage one's own learning (10 items); desire for learning (9 items); and characteristic self-control or being in control of one's own learning (10 items). Students responded using a 5-point Likert scale that ranged from five for strongly agrees to one for strongly disagree. Overall scores ranged from 29 to 145 with higher scores reflecting stronger readiness for SDL. Mean scores >109 is meant to indicate a high level of readiness for SDL, whereas the mean scores of ≤108 (3rd quartile) represent a low level of readiness. SDL Cronbach's alpha was 0.924.[13] Since target sample is conducting their study through the English language, no translation has been made to the original instrument.

The third section was designed to record the students' visual, aural/auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic (VARK) questionnaire result.[14] The VARK questionnaire was developed by Fleming in 1987 to measure the learning style preferences. Cronbach's alpha for VARK subscales was 0.85, 0.82, 0.84, and 0.77 for the VARK subscales, respectively.[15] Version 7 of the VARK questionnaire consists of 16 multiple choice questions, each with four choices. All choices correspond to the four-sensory modalities measured by the VARK questionnaire. Students can select multiple answers per question that match their perception, and hence they may be unimodal or multimodal (bimodal, trimodal, or quad-modal). Students were directed to use the free version that available on online through the VARK website.

Data collection

Hard copies of the study instrument were distributed to the target participants during the class time. Explanation of the study's aim and instrument was delivered to the students. It is clarified that participation was voluntary and those who did not wish to take part in the study should return the blank questionnaire to the collection box, which was placed close to the academic staff of the common room.

Ethical considerations

Ethical approval was granted by the College of Nursing Ethics Committee. The study data were kept confidential. No names or identifiable data were collected.

Data analysis

Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS version 20 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) by an independent professional statistician. Frequencies, means, standard deviations, and percentages were used to describe the study outcomes. Chi-square test was used to identify the relationships among variables, whereas unpaired t-test and ANOVA were utilized to compare the means between the two groups. Post-hoc Bonferroni test was utilized to verify significant ANOVA outcomes. Odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals were calculated; P ≤ 0.05 was considered as statistically significant.


A total of 213 students participated in the study with a 76% of response rate [Table 1]. The majority of the samples were women aged at 24 years old or more (70.9%), living in cities (93.9%), and involved in the Bridging Programs (68.5%). Percentages of marital status were closed (47.9% vs. 25.1%). Of the participants, the levels 4, 2, and 7 represented 40.8%, 27.7%, and 16.4, respectively. In addition, aural, read-write, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles accounted for 19.7%, 8.5%, 6.6%, and 25.8% of participants, respectively. From a modal perspective, unimodal was dominant (60.6%) among the participants.{Table 1}

Comparison of socio-demographic groups revealed statistically significant variations in self-management subscale and residence, marital status, and learning style (t = 3.698, P = 0.001; t = 2.054, P = 0.041; and F = 4.112, P = 0.008, respectively) [Table 1]. Means of the desire for learning subscales were statistically significant for gender (t = 1.985, P = 0.048), academic level (F = 2.969, P = 0.033), and mode (t = 3.610, P = 0.001). Self-control means were variant in learning style (F = 4.280, P = 0.007) and mode (t = 6.694, P = 0.001). The overall SDLR scores were statistically significant for residence (t = 4.938, P = 0.001) and learning style (F = 5.197, P = 0.002). Post-hoc analysis indicated statistically significant differences in desire for learning between the level 2 and level 4 students (P = 0.018), level 4 students and level 5 (P = 0.035) as well as level 7 (P = 0.039). Aural and read-write learning styles were statistically significant different in terms of self-management (P = 0.005), self-control (P = 0.004), and overall score (P = 0.001). Similarly, read-write and visual were significantly different in terms of self-management (P = 0.004), self-control (P = 0.003), and overall score (P = 0.002). In addition, read-write and kinesthetic were significantly different in terms of self-management (P = 0.002), self-control (P = 0.002), and overall score (P = 0.000).

Similarly, significant variations were detected between the socio-demographic variables and learning styles [Table 2]. Aural learning style means were significantly different across age groups and academic programs (t = 2.069, P = 0.045). Bimodal learning style scores were significantly different across age groups (t = 3.366, P = 0.001), academic programs (t = 3.366, P = 0.001), place of residence (t = 6.438, P < 0.001), marital status (t = 2.065, P = 0.045), and academic level (F = 3.697, P = 0.015). Post-hoc analysis indicated statistically significant differences in bimodal learning style between level 2 and level 5 students (P = 0.030) as well as level 7 (P = 0.013). Furthermore, there were statistically significant differences between level 4 and level 5 students (P = 0.036) as well as level 7 (P = 0.018).{Table 2}

The proportion of high-level SDLR [Table 3] scores shows significant variation among age groups (χ2 = 15.163, P < 0.001), programs (χ2 = 15.163, P < 0.001), residences (χ2 = 12.753, P < 0.001), and academic levels (χ2 = 15.352, P = 0.002). [Table 4] shows the predictor variables of the logistic regression analysis. Significant predictors were age groups (B = 1.39, P = 0.000) and place of residence (B = 0.069, P = 0.004).{Table 3}{Table 4}


In accordance with earlier studies in nursing field, self-control in the current study was a highly reported subscale for examining the level of readiness for SDL among the nursing students.[11],[16],[17] However, the overall SDLR scores were higher than those reported in studies conducted in Saudi Arabia. The coefficient of variation for the current study was 3.18, whereas earlier reported studies ranged from 2.50 to 2.92.[11],[16]

Despite the earlier findings that the SDLR had insignificant effect on learning style, the current study revealed that there was a significant relationship between total mean SDLR score and learning styles among the participants.[11],[16],[18] In addition, the self-management and self-control subscales of SDLR showed significant relation with students' learning styles while desire for learning had no significant association. This discrepancy may be attributed to different learning approaches in different institutions and students' different learning experiences.

However, the current study supported earlier studies with regard to the absence of relationships between socio-demographic characteristics and total SDLR score.[16] This trend was evident in international studies such as in the USA and Taiwan.[19],[20] On the other hand, there was evidence in one study that age and academic level influenced the SDL ability.[11] This variation indicates that the demographic factors may have different effects in diverse situations.

In addition, age, type of program, place of residence, and academic level had significant effects on level of SDLR, whereas gender, marital status, learning style, and mode of learning had no significant effect.[11],[17],[21] Variations among Bridging Program students in their readiness for SDL could be attributed to their individual demographical differences, which might affect their educational goals, motivation to learn, attitudes toward teaching and teachers, and responses to the classroom and clinical practice environments.[17],[22] The cultural background of a nursing student is also an influencing factor in the development of SDL skills.[23] Thus, Saudi culture, with its varying components, could influence nursing education to encourage or perhaps promote SDLR.

Findings from the present study revealed that most participants utilized a single modality and preferred the kinesthetic followed by the aural mode. This may be due to the effect of the nursing curriculum, in which hands-on learning, clinical practice, and a teacher-centered and lecture-based approach are applied widely. This finding was also evident in earlier Saudi studies.[9],[11] In the present study, some socio-demographic characteristics that influenced learning style were age group, academic program, place of residence, marital status, and academic level. This result is congruent with studies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.[9],[11],[24] The study was limited in that the sample was representative of one institution, cross-sectional design, and utilizing self-reported measures, which limit generalization of the result and doesn't identify causation relationship among the study variables.


The study revealed the high level of readiness for SDL among the study sample and prefers kinesthetic learning mode. There was significant connection between the participants' learning styles and the variables of their readiness for SDL. Therefore, it is recommended that nurse educators should assess and assist their students in identifying and learning through their own style preferences. Furthermore, nursing curriculum design should include different learning styles and needs utilization of critical thinking, brainstorming, self-direction, and various types of creative thinking to move the students from traditional educational approaches to more active and independent approaches. Further research is required to investigate the correlation of learning styles preference and academic achievements and learning outcomes. Additional studies are needed to replicate this study using a larger sample size.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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