Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher and Adult Education


Adult Education

Committee Chair

Mitsunori Misawa

Committee Member

William L. Akey

Committee Member

Barbara Mullins Nelson

Committee Member

Ruth Williams-Hooker


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to understand the experience and perspectives of registered dietitians (RDs) practicing as public health nutrition professionals, in meeting their continuing professional education (CPE) and professional learning needs in their workplace, and the relationship to adult learning theories. Adult learning theories and strategies reviewed include andragogy, self-directed learning, transformational learning, experiential learning, informal and incidental learning, and critical reflective practice. Data was collected during a nine-month period from RDs within a county public health nutrition department. Data collection methods included observation, document elicitation using the participant's professional development portfolio, semi-structured interviews, and artifact collection. Data was analyzed using thematic analysis, and findings were represented in themes, supported and illustrated by representative quotes from the participants. The five themes that emerged during analysis about CPE and professional learning were (1) the availability of opportunities, (2) the variety of methods for customizing learning, (3) that learning has a purpose, (4) learning is enhanced by enjoyability, and (5) RDs want to be prepared professionally. The RDs in this study reported experiences that aligned with literature about andragogy, self-directed learning, transformational learning, experiential learning, and informal and incidental learning. Barriers they reported were primarily cost, time, and scheduling, with some technology access problems. There was little self-reporting of reflective practice, although there was indication that they were reflecting, but did not consider it as learning. Four directions for future research are suggested, including expanding to other public health clinical settings in rural areas or in other parts of the country, or to experiences of RDs in other practice areas such as clinical, wellness, chronic care, research, or education; the role of reflective practice in CPE and workplace learning for RDs; the growing role of social media in informal learning for the health care professional providers and for patients or clients; or a comparison of the proliferations of CPE "freebies" mentioned frequently by these RDs, which are often produced by commercial companies, with more traditional offerings from universities or other agencies.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.