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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The validity and reliability of the self-directed learning instrument (SDLI) in mainland Chinese nursing students

Wang-qin Shen1, Hong-lin Chen1 and Yan Hu2*

Author Affiliations

1 Principal Lecturer in Nursing, School of Nursing, Nantong University, Nantong, Jiangsu, PR China

2 Professor in Nursing, School of Nursing, Fudan university, Shanghai, PR China

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:108  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-108

Published: 27 May 2014



Self-directed learning is crucial to the professional development of nursing students, and which enables them to expand the knowledge and enhance the quality of their practice. A validated self-directed learning instrument is important not only in assessing the individual’s self-directed learning level, but also in evaluating the effectiveness of teaching or learning methods. The aim of this study is to evaluate the validity and reliability of the SDLI in mainland Chinese nursing students.


A cross-sectional design with convenience sampling was used to recruit participants from three nursing schools. The mainland Chinese version of SDLI was tested with respect to validity and reliability in 1,499 nursing students, and another 30 nursing students were invited to evaluate the test-retest reliability of the scale in 7 days interval.


Explorary factor analysis identified a four-factor structure, accounting for 56.101% of the total variance. The confirmatory factor analysis showed a good overall fit of this four-factor model. Convergent validity was supported by the highly positive Pearson’s correlation between SDLI score and SRSSDL score (r = .876, p = .000). Cronbach’s alpha for internal consistency of overall scale was .916, and 4 dimensions were between .755-.825.The test-retest reliability of overall scale was .850, and 4 dimensions were between .708-.821. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) of overall scale was .916, and 4 dimensions were .822-.889.


This study indicates that the SDLI is a valid and reliable instrument for assessing self-directed learning in mainland Chinese nursing students. Nurse educators could use such knowledge to develop their roles and plan to support nursing students in becoming self-directed learners and lifelong learner.

Self-directed learning; Nursing students; Scale; Validity; Reliability