Background. The development of self-assessment and self-directed learning skills is essential to lifelong learning and becoming an effective physician. Pediatric residents in the United States are now required to use Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs) to document self-assessment and self-directed learning. A better understanding of resident and faculty attitudes and skills about self-assessment and self-directed learning will allow more successful integration of lifelong learning into residency education. The objective of this study was to compare faculty and resident attitudes, knowledge and skills about self-assessment, self-directed learning and ILPs. Methods. Survey of pediatric residents and faculty at a single institution. Respondents rated their attitudes, knowledge, and self-perceived skills surrounding self-assessment, self-directed learning and ILPs. Results. Overall survey response rate was 81% (79/97); 100% (36/36) residents and 70% (43/61) faculty. Residents and faculty agreed that lifelong learning is a necessary part of being a physician. Both groups were comfortable with assessing their own strengths and weaknesses and developing specific goals to improve their own performance. However, residents were less likely than faculty to continuously assess their own performance (44% vs. 81%; p < 0.001) or continuously direct their own learning (53% vs. 86%; p < 0.001). Residents were more likely than faculty to believe that residents should be primarily responsible for directing their own learning (64% vs. 19%; p < 0.0001), but at the same time, more residents believed that assigned clinical (31% vs. 0%; p < 0.0001) or curricular (31% vs. 0%; p < 0.0001) experiences were sufficient to make them competent physicians. Interns were less likely than senior residents to have a good understanding of how to assess their own skills (8% vs. 58%; p = 0.004) or what it means to be a self-directed learner (50% vs. 83%; p = 0.04). Qualitative comments indicated that while ILPs have the potential to help learners develop individualized, goal-directed learning plans based on strengths and weaknesses, successful implementation will require dedicated time and resident and faculty development. Conclusion. These findings suggest that training and experience are necessary for physicians to understand the role of self-directed learning in education. Deliberate practice, for example by requiring residents to use ILPs, may facilitate self-directed, lifelong learning.
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