Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Betty L. Beach

Committee Members

Grayce E. Goertz, John R. Ray, Charles A. Chance, Mary Jo Hitchcock


Assessment of learning climate in major clinical facilities utilized in Coordinated Undergraduate Programs in Dietetics by graduating seniors assists the faculty of the program and the personnel in the facility in determining the course of study and in planning experiences for the future students. An instrument was developed to assess learning climate by identifying, classifying, and validating the learning incidents or climate indicators that affect the students' ability to apply concepts learned from both didactic and clinical experiences.

The identification process was accomplished through the use of Nominal Group Technique meetings. Six groups of graduating seniors and graduates of one year were utilized from two university coordinated programs in dietetics to identify 120 experiential incidents. Use of individual brainstorming with group discussion and prioritization are the main features of Nominal Group Technique.

Three clinical instructors from one university program classified the incidents as supportive (successful) or nonsupportive (unsuccessful or not allowed) of student learning, to areas of subject matter, and as to duplication of incidents previously identified. This classification was used as the basis for a checklist developed for the assessment of learning climate.

The checklist was reviewed by the three clinical instructors and four 1977 Coordinated Undergraduate Programs in Dietetics graduates who made suggestions for revisions. For validation, the revised checklist was mailed to 158 of the 1978 graduates from 11 selected accredited coordinated dietetic programs. The return rate was 82%.

In summarizing the results, some commonalities were found in the climate indicators that lead to success including: (a) confidence of the registered dietitian in the student and/or support and backing of the registered dietitian; (b) receptiveness and/or cooperation of employees; (c) support of the administration, confidence of the administration in the student, and/or necessity for the experience as seen by the administration; (d) cooperation of supervisors; and vi (e) self-confidence of the student. Indicators leading to unsuccessful incidents were the opposites of the ones for successful experiences noted above with the addition of an indicator showing lack of student authority. Concomitantly, indicators relating to incidents where experiences were not allowed included: (a) lack of administrative confidence in the student; (b) lack of cooperation of the employees; and (c) necessity for the experience for the students not seen by the administration. Benefits to the students indicated by the incidents were increased ability to take responsibility, increased variety of experiences, increased confidence in decision making ability, and possible practical application of previously learned concepts. Problems that the students found related to the incidents were lack of communication with clinical instructors, lack of professional supervision, and lack of application of concepts.

In conclusion, the Nominal Group Technique was considered an effective method of identifying incidents affecting learning climate in clinical facilities and comments in response to the checklists indicated that the students did not accept the role of motivating patients or employees to make desirable behavior changes. Additional training for the dietetic students in understanding and application of principles of motivation should be incorporated in the curriculum. The developed instrument could be of general use in all coordinated programs with a generalist emphasis. The clinical instructors can assist the students to utilize their perceptions of the clinical facilities to further development as effective dietitians.

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