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The Influence of Students’ Perceptions of Learning Environment on Coping with Academic Challenges: A Structural Equation Modeling Study

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Theory: Self-compassion has been identified as a promising interventional target enabling medical learners to respond effectively to stressors and challenges of medical training. Determining factors in the learning environment that support self-compassion is critical for developing such interventions. What is already known in terms of environmental or contextual factors is that learning environments that are supportive of students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness result in better learning and wellbeing outcomes. As such, satisfaction of basic psychological needs in the learning environment was tested for potential effects on self-compassion among medical students. Hypothesis: It was hypothesized that medical students who perceived their needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness were supported in the learning environment would be more likely to respond to stressors and challenges by means of positive processes of self-compassion (common humanity, mindfulness, self-kindness) and less likely by means of negative processes of self-compassion (isolation, over-identification, self-judgment). Two models were tested: Model 1 contained the effects of the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness on two factors of self-compassion that comprise three positive and three negative processes, respectively. Model 2 contained the direct effects of the psychological needs on six individual processes of self-compassion. Method: Using two online surveys, authors collected data from medical students (n = 195) at a large Canadian university. The authors used the 12-item basic psychological needs scale to measure the degree of satisfaction of students’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the learning environment, as perceived by students. The 12-item self-compassion scale was used to measure the degree of compassion students exhibited toward themselves in challenging times in the medical program. The authors used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the hypothesized relationships between basic psychological needs satisfaction and self-compassion. Results: The SEM results for Model 2 indicated an improved model fit over Model 1; however, not all the hypothesized effects were determined to be significant in the two models. In the better fitting model (Model 2), significant effects were observed between the needs for competence and relatedness and the three negative processes of self-compassion (isolation, over-identification, self-judgement). Specifically, the need for relatedness had comparable effects on all three negative processes of self-compassion. The need for competence had a significant effect only on isolation. The need for autonomy had no effects on self-compassion processes. None of the effects involving the positive processes of self-compassion (common humanity, mindfulness, self-kindness) were significant. Conclusions: Satisfaction of medical students’ needs for competence and relatedness in the learning environment appears to reduce the negative processes of self-compassion. Future research is needed to determine why basic psychological needs satisfaction appears to have no effects on the positive processes of self-compassion and what factors are likely to foster these beneficial processes among medical students.

  • Date created
    2019-09-20
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-rfhc-cf77
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • Rashid, M., Guo, Q., & Babenko, O. (2019). The influence of students’ perceptions of learning environment on coping with academic challenges: A structural equation modeling study. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 32(2), 204-217. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10401334.2019.1667241
  • Source
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10401334.2019.1667241