Lettre du DPCPublié le 18 mai 2016

De gauche à droite: Madame Francesca Luconi et Dr Claude Guimond.

Author: Francesca Luconi (PhD) (Assistant Dean & Academic Associate1)

Co-authors: Frédéric Boudreau (Web Developer2) ,Dr. Ivan Rohan (Associate Dean3), Alix Zerbo (Research Assistant4)

1,2,3,4: Continuing Professional Development, McGill University, Faculty of Medicine, Lady Meredith House 1110 Pine Avenue W., Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1A3.

The Self-Directed Learning Compass (SDLC): A free online continuing professional development tool

In response to increasing demands on the medical profession, life-long learning (LLL) should be developed across the educational spectrum and applied in clinical practice.  As the foundation of LLL, self-directed learning (SDL) comprises teachable skills such as critical appraisal, self-assessment and reflection on one’s own clinical performance.  In theory, self-directed learners assume personal responsibility and control of their learning processes1. However, physicians’ self-assessment tends to be inaccurate and they lack training in SDL2. Consequently, licensing and accrediting bodies require CPD providers to provide support and training on SDL across CanMED roles 3. Given this mandate, and the findings of McGill’s 2015 CPD needs assessment and environmental scan, our CPD Office developed the Self-directed Learning Compass (SDLC).

The SDLC is a free online tool that supports physicians’ SDL processes (http://cme.mcgill.ca/sdl/index.php). After registering on the CPD office website, learners review an introduction, take three quizzes and select from a comprehensive list of resources.  By informing them about SDL, the latest accreditation requirements and personal learning plans (PLPs), Quiz 1 stimulates reflection on their own SDL processes and preferences.  Next, participants rate their abilities to carry out personal learning plans using gap analysis exercises that compare their current and desired ability levels. After choosing a listed SDL resource, they rate its effectiveness in supporting their SDL (Quiz 2). Finally, they reflect on and rate the overall effectiveness of the compass in supporting their SDL processes (Quiz 3).

The innovative aspects of the SDLC are that it raises awareness and engages and trains learners on their unperceived needs. Using the principle of cognitive dissonance from educational psychology4, the tool provides opportunities for physicians to reflect on and question their own SDL competencies. The discrepancies between their beliefs and behaviors trigger motivation to improve their SDL skills.  In fact, the SDLC provides opportunities to compare their beliefs and behaviors to the theoretical and empirical findings on effective self-assessment and multi-source feedback.

In our research, we use an outcomes-based evaluation approach to assess the effectiveness of the SDLC. We are analyzing participation and completion data, satisfaction survey responses and knowledge demonstrated on three quizzes. These data will be analyzed with descriptive statistics and content analysis. Our target sample size of 100 is representative of a population of 3800 Anglophone physicians across Quebec. Our preliminary results indicate that the SDLC fulfills an important gap in the CPD field.

In conclusion, CPD providers and physicians can benefit from the SDLC, a low-tech, inexpensive and instructionally sound tool adaptable to online environments. The SDLC is sustainable over time because of the close monitoring of effectiveness to meet CACME accreditation standards and our CPD office’s 2015-2018 strategic plan. The innovative contributions of the SDLC are: a) trained self-directed learners are better equipped to face the increasing challenges of a complex healthcare system; b) the SDL is tailored to the target audience’s needs; c) scientific evaluations ensure quality improvement; and d) the target audience can be expanded to include residents and trainees.


  1. Garrison DR. Self-directed learning: Toward a comprehensive model. Adult Education Quarterly. 1997; 48(1): 18-33.
  2. Davis et al. Accuracy of Physician Self-assessment compare with observed measures of competence. A systematic review. JAMA. 2006 Sept; 296(9):1094-1102.
  3. Galbraith R, Hawkins R, Holmboe E. Making self-assessment more effective. JCEHP. 2008; 28(1):20-24.
  4. Festinger L. A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press; 1957.

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