Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Study Strategies Are Associated with Performance in Basic Science Courses in the Medical Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Study Strategies Are Associated with Performance in Basic Science Courses in the Medical Curriculum

Article excerpt

Abstract

We investigated the study strategies of first and second year medical students and tested the associations between study habits and performances in their basic science courses. Upon completion of every basic science course, students completed a survey ranking the study strategies they utilized throughout each course. Results of a principle component analysis showed that study strategies clustered into one of three study factors: "rote" learning, "constructive" learning, or "review" learning. Each of these study factors comprised related study strategies. Students tended to use "constructive" strategies predominantly, but altered their study habits based on content delivered in specific courses. Trends emerged indicating negative correlations for "rote" learning and course performance whereas there were positive correlations for "constructive" learning and course performance. Courses where "constructive" learning had the greatest effects also tended to have the greatest number of questions that required "constructive" reasoning on the final exam.

Keywords: study strategy, medical curriculum, learning style

1. Introduction

The study skills and strategies of students (including medical students) have been the subject of numerous investigations (Amin, Tani, Eng, Samarasekara, & Huak, 2009; Barker & Olson, 1997; Karpicke, Butler, & Roediger, 2009; McConnell, Regehr, Wood, & Eva, 2011; Newble & Gordon, 1985; Pandey & Zimitat, 2007; Reid, Duvall, & Evans, 2005; Salamonson, Everett, Koch, Wilson, & Davidson, 2009; P. Weinstein & Gipple, 1974; Wenger, Hobbs, Williams, Hays, & Ducatman, 2009; West & Sadoski, 2011), but there is little evidence of associations between study strategies and performance in medical courses (P. Weinstein & Gipple, 1974; West & Sadoski, 2011). Definitions of learning are often characterized by two components, a change in behavior or mental representation, and an experience that facilitates that change (Driscoll, 2005; Ormrod, 2004). Cognitive theories of learning include activities or methods used by an individual to encode information into long-term memory in the category of experiences that produce changes in mental representations and thereby constitute learning (Anderson, 1995). Accordingly, the activities an individual engages in to promote encoding while studying course content represent learning strategies of the individual. Ormrod (2004) indicated that the processes or strategies employed by a learner while studying influences how the information is stored and later retrieved, and she proposed that some study processes promoted better learning.

Learning or study strategies are characterized by two main processes: rehearsal and constructive (Ormrod, 2004). Rehearsal processes include strategies for encoding information through repetition, rehearsal, mnemonic associations, or repeated practice. These strategies are often referred to as "rote" learning, as they tend to foster the encoding of the information in its original form as separate components isolated from existing knowledge structures. "Constructive" processes imply that the learner transforms the information from its original form and constructs a new representation of the information in long-term memory, which includes linking the information into existing knowledge structures. Constructive processes include strategies for encoding information through the elaboration of prior knowledge, structuring or organizing information, personalizing information to make it meaningful, and creating visual representations of information (Driscoll, 2005; Ormrod, 2004). Ormrod advocated that students utilize constructive study strategies. "To learn classroom subject matter effectively, students should instead develop study strategies that involve meaningful learning, internal organization, and elaboration...they can be encouraged to state ideas in their own words, generate their own examples of an idea, make connections between new concepts and their past experiences, and draw logical inferences from data they receive" (pg. …

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