Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

David Anderson, EdD, Chair

Committee Member

James Berry, EdD

Committee Member

Polly Buchanan, PhD


This purpose of this research study was to test learning theories and models of teaching (constructivist vs. behaviorist) used in dietetic education programs. Additionally, the focus of accreditation for dietetics education is the quality and integrity of a program regardless of its instructional delivery method. Therefore, this study examined the variations between on-line and on-campus delivery methods.

Research questions that guided this study included:

1) To what extent do educators use constructivist or behaviorist theoretical approaches during instructional delivery?

2) What are the differences in learning between on-line education and oncampus delivery methods?

3) As far as constructivist and behaviorist teaching methods impact learning, is there an interaction between instructional style and delivery method?

4) How do constructivist and behaviorist teaching methods impact learning (as measured by RD exam score, GPA, and perceived level of knowledge and skills) to work as an entry level dietitian)?

A 106-item survey was developed by the author and adapted from previously developed instruments including the Teaching Belief Survey and the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey. Multiple interaction effects were found, indicating that constructivist and behaviorist teaching strategies and learning environments are not mutually exclusive nor is either one considered to be superior to the other.

Descriptive statistics such as means and percentages were used to compare response distributions. Factor analysis was performed and the value of Cronbach’s alpha for all of the components was calculated. Paired sample t-tests, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were used to compare on-line and on-campus responses. Multiple linear regressions and path analysis were also used as part of the data analysis process.

This study met the outcome measures of obtaining GPA and addressed knowledge and skills to determine competence to work as an entry level dietitian. The findings in this study showed that both constructivist and behaviorist teaching strategies and classroom environment had an effect on GPA and perception of knowledge.

Considering the need for well educated dietitians, there is a tremendous need for research that tests effectiveness of particular educational approaches in dietetic programs. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) claims that completion of an accredited program and passage of the National Registration Examination ensures a competent entry level dietitian. Professional competence of entry level dietetic practitioners included criteria of (a) reported undergraduate grade point average (GPA) from the institution of higher education attended, and (b) the graduates’ self-perception of competence. Future research is indicated for and should be encouraged and expanded in order to strengthen future outcomes of dietetic education across the country.


Additional committee member: Ronald Williamson, EdD