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Open Access Research article

Measuring students’ approaches to learning in different clinical rotations

Ova Emilia1*, Leah Bloomfield2 and Arie Rotem2

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Jl. Farmako, Sekip Utara, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

2 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:114  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-114

Published: 15 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Many studies have explored approaches to learning in medical school, mostly in the classroom setting. In the clinical setting, students face different conditions that may affect their learning. Understanding students’ approaches to learning is important to improve learning in the clinical setting. The aim of this study was to evaluate the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) as an instrument for measuring clinical learning in medical education and also to show whether learning approaches vary between rotations.

Methods

All students involved in this survey were undergraduates in their clinical phase. The SPQ was adapted to the clinical setting and was distributed in the last week of the clerkship rotation. A longitudinal study was also conducted to explore changes in learning approaches.

Results

Two hundred and nine students participated in this study (response rate 82.0%). The SPQ findings supported a two-factor solution involving deep and surface approaches. These two factors accounted for 45.1% and 22.5%, respectively, of the variance. The relationships between the two scales and their subscales showed the internal consistency and factorial validity of the SPQ to be comparable with previous studies. The clinical students in this study had higher scores for deep learning. The small longitudinal study showed small changes of approaches to learning with different rotation placement but not statistically significant.

Conclusions

The SPQ was found to be a valid instrument for measuring approaches to learning among clinical students. More students used a deep approach than a surface approach. Changes of approach not clearly occurred with different clinical rotations.

Keywords:
Approaches to learning; Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ); Learning process; Clinical teaching