Utility of learning plans in general practice vocational training: A mixed-methods national study of registrar, supervisor, and educator perspectives

Belinda Garth, Catherine Kirby, Peter Silberberg, James Brown

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Background: Learning plans are a compulsory component of the training and assessment requirements of general practice (GP) registrars in Australia. There is a small but growing number of studies reporting that learning plans are not well accepted or utilised in general practice training. There is a lack of research examining this apparent contradiction. The aim of this study was to examine use and perceived utility of formal learning plans in GP vocational training. Methods: This mixed-method Australian national research project utilised online learning plan usage data from 208 GP registrars and semi-structured focus groups and telephone interviews with 35 GP registrars, 12 recently fellowed GPs, 16 supervisors and 17 medical educators across three Regional Training Providers (RTPs). Qualitative data were analysed thematically using template analysis. Results: Learning plans were used mostly as a log of activities rather than as a planning tool. Most learning needs were entered and ticked off as complete on the same day. Learning plans were perceived as having little value for registrars in their journey to becoming a competent GP, and as a bureaucratic hurdle serving as a distraction rather than an aid to learning. The process of learning planning was valued more so than the documentation of learning planning. Conclusions: This study provides creditable evidence that mandated learning plans are broadly considered by users to be a bureaucratic impediment with little value as a learning tool. It is more important to support registrars in planning their learning than to enforce documentation of this process in a learning plan. If learning planning is to be an assessed competence, methods of assessment other than the submission of a formal learning plan should be explored.

Original languageEnglish
Article number211
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2016


  • Adult learning theory
  • Deliberative learning
  • General practice training
  • Learning planning
  • Learning plans
  • Qualitative
  • Socio-cultural theory
  • Socio-material theory

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