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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Learning styles of medical students, general surgery residents, and general surgeons: implications for surgical education

Paul T Engels* and Chris de Gara

Author Affiliations

Department of Surgery, University of Alberta, Walter C. Mackenzie Centre, University of Alberta Hospital, 8440-112 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R7, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:51  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-51

Published: 30 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Surgical education is evolving under the dual pressures of an enlarging body of knowledge required during residency and mounting work-hour restrictions. Changes in surgical residency training need to be based on available educational models and research to ensure successful training of surgeons. Experiential learning theory, developed by David Kolb, demonstrates the importance of individual learning styles in improving learning. This study helps elucidate the way in which medical students, surgical residents, and surgical faculty learn.

Methods

The Kolb Learning Style Inventory, which divides individual learning styles into Accommodating, Diverging, Converging, and Assimilating categories, was administered to the second year undergraduate medical students, general surgery resident body, and general surgery faculty at the University of Alberta.

Results

A total of 241 faculty, residents, and students were surveyed with an overall response rate of 73%. The predominant learning style of the medical students was assimilating and this was statistically significant (p < 0.03) from the converging learning style found in the residents and faculty. The predominant learning styles of the residents and faculty were convergent and accommodative, with no statistically significant differences between the residents and the faculty.

Conclusions

We conclude that medical students have a significantly different learning style from general surgical trainees and general surgeons. This has important implications in the education of general surgery residents.