Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Changes in Study Strategies of Medical Students between Basic Science Courses and Clerkships Are Associated with Performance

Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Changes in Study Strategies of Medical Students between Basic Science Courses and Clerkships Are Associated with Performance

Article excerpt

Abstract

We tested the hypothesis that medical students change their study strategies when transitioning from basic science courses to clerkships, and that their study practices are associated with performance scores. Factor scores for three approaches to studying (construction, rote, and review) generated from student (n=150) responses to a questionnaire were correlated to examination and clinical performance scores. Composite factor scores were compared using a paired t-test and sign test to examine changes in study practices as students transitioned from basic science courses to clerkships. The construction approach to studying was more likely to have a positive and stronger relationship to examination scores in both courses and clerkships, but showed no significant associations with clinical performance scores. Our analyses indicated that students are more likely to increase their use of study practices associated with construction of knowledge as they transition from courses to clerkships. Although learning is a complex endeavor, students employing construction study strategies are more likely to outperform their peers who rely mostly on rote and review practices. Transitioning from basic science courses to the clerkships students tend to utilize more construction study practices suggesting that students are responsive to their learning environments when selecting study strategies.

Keywords: medical school, medical curriculum, study strategies, learning styles

1. Introduction

The connection between study strategies and student achievement in courses has been observed in previous research (McNulty, Ensminger, Hoyt, Chandrasekhar, Gruener, Espiritu, 2012; Onwuegbuzie, Slate, & Schwartz, 2001; Pandey & Zimitat, 2007; Bow, Dattilo, Jonas, & Lehmann, 2013); however, the research examining the relationship between students' study approaches in clinical based settings is limited (Al Kadri et al., 2011; Al-Kadri, Al-Moamary, Al-Takroni, Roberts, & van der Vleuten, 2012) as is the research examining if students shifttheir study habits as they move from courses to clerkships (Arnold & Feighny, 1995).

How a student chooses to study influences the manner in which information is processed and subsequently encoded into longer-term memory. This process influences how the information is represented mentally and retrieved for later use (Anderson, 1995; Ormrod, 2007; Driscoll, 2005). Often, students choose to use study methods that capitalize on rehearsing, repetition or forced associations. These strategies emphasize the learning of discrete pieces of information in original forms that are not connected to one another in a meaningful manner during encoding, and are retrieved as separate pieces of information. Strategies that emphasize these methods tend to be grouped together and referred to as rote learning (Ormrod, 2007). Study strategies that capitalize on creation, elaboration, structured organization, visual representations, personal connections, and emphasize actively making new meaning of the information tend to be grouped together and viewed as constructivist learning (McNulty, et al., 2012; Ormrod, 2007; Driscoll, 2005). Thus, the methods of processing information a medical student selects when preparing for a basic science course or clerkship reflects the nature of learning that occurs in each environment.

Previous research suggests that students respond to the educational environment and alter their learning approaches to fit the expectations of the learning context (Al Kadri, et al., 2011; Al-Kadri et al., 2012; Arnold & Feighny, 1995; Crooks, Winter 1988; Newble & Entwistle, 1986; Richardson, Dawson, Sadlo, Jenkins, & Mcinnes, 2007), with some researchers suggesting that a student's existing and implicit perspectives about which practices and strategies are most effective for learning independent of the context mitigate their degree of responsiveness to the learning context (Arnold & Feighny, 1995; Edmunds & Richardson, 2009). …

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