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GP learning styles and risk-taking propensities
Medical Teacher Volume 24, Number 1/January 1, 2002
Do general practitioners' risk-taking propensities and learning styles influence their continuing medical education preferences?

In an article by Geoffrey Robinson, Lake Road Research and Development Practice, Portsmouth, UK, he reports:

US studies have shown that a clinician's risk-taking propensity significantly predicts clinical behaviour. Other US studies examining relationships between family practice doctors' preferences for CME and their Kolb learning style have described conflicting findings.

The aim of the present study was to investigate GPs' learning styles, risk-taking propensities and CME preferences, and to explore links between them. A descriptive confidential cross-sectional postal questionnaire survey of the 304 general practitioner principals within Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Health Authority was conducted. Two hundred and seventy-four GPs returned questionnaires, a response rate of 90.1%.

The Kolb learning style types were assimilators 43.8% (predominant learning abilities watching and thinking), divergers 21.1% (feeling and watching), convergers 18.3% (doing and thinking), and accommodators 16.8% (doing and feeling).

The Pearson risk-taking propensities were 65.8% risk neutral, 19.4% risk seeking and 14.8% risk averse. Risk-seeking GPs were significantly more likely to be accommodators or convergers than divergers or assimilators (p = 0.006). Majorities of 54.9% stated that the present PGEA system works well, 85% welcomed feedback from their peers, and 76.8% stated that learning should be an activity for all the practice team. Further majorities would welcome help to decide their learning needs (63.8%) and are looking to judge CME effectiveness by changes in GP performance or patient care (54.8%).

Further significant correlations and cross-tabulations were found between learning style and risk-taking and CME attitudes, experiences and preferences. It is concluded that risk seekers and accommodators (doing and feeling) prefer feedback, interaction and practical hands-on learning, and assimilators (watching and thinking) and the risk averse tend towards lectures, theoretical learning formats and less interactive activities.

Sharing feelings in groups may be difficult for the risk averse and assimilators. The success of a combined educational strategy will depend on an inclusive philosophy, both recognizing and engaging the wide range of differences in learning style and risk taking for all the individuals who make up learning teams.