Nora Lowy

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Health Sciences


Health and Medical Sciences


Genevieve Pinto Zipp, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Valerie G. Olson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Terrance F. Cahill, Ph.D.


learning styles, critical thinking aptitudes, immersion learning, physician assistant students


The changes in healthcare delivery systems and the global burden of disease along with the overwhelming corpus of new knowledge call for a re-evaluation of the educational process of health profession programs. The focus on how best to optimize the learning process necessitates an acknowledgement of the roles of learning styles and critical thinking aptitudes. It also requires attention to the learning experiences and how these, in turn, affect development of both the styles and aptitudes. A sample of 137 Physician Assistant students was recruited to complete a learning style inventory, the Gregorc Style Delineator, and a critical thinking aptitude test, the Health Science Reasoning Test. Participants were then divided into two subgroups, identified as ‘preclinical PA students’ and ‘clinical PA students’ and the results obtained from both instruments were compared to explore for possible associations between immersion clinical experiences and learning style preferences and critical thinking aptitudes. The PA students were preferentially concrete sequential learners with moderate to strong critical thinking aptitudes. There were no significant differences between preclinical and clinical PA students with respect to learning styles or overall critical thinking aptitudes. Significant differences (P=.002) with improvement in scores, was noted for only one parameter of critical thinking, identified by the Health Science Reasoning Test as “inference”. While immersion learning did not appear to impact learning style preferences or overall critical thinking aptitudes, it is important to note the improvement in ‘inference; a skill critical for the medical decision making process required of PA students in their preparation for future practice.

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