Study and Learning

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The Process of Learning

Individual learning requires conscientiousness and must be combined with a study approach that leads to deep learning in order to be effective. Lower conscientiousness predicts greater stress. Learning in a group tutorial process encourages and provides opportunities for extraversion, openness, and agreeableness that complement the individual learning process. Extraverts have more personal accomplishment and are more satisfied with medicine. The personality measure of agreeableness predicts a more supportive-receptive work environment. Doctors with greater stress and emotional exhaustion, who are less satisfied with medicine as a career, have greater neuroticism and are more likely to be surface-disorganized.

Personality and learning style not only correlate with approaches to work, workplace climate, stress, burnout and satisfaction with a medical career, but also can be the causes for future career events. Events that occur earlier in time predict events happening later in time.

Learning strategies

Surface learning:

Students are motivated by fear of failure. They have a short-term goal to complete a course or module. They concentrate effort upon rote learning of facts and concepts or completion of specific tasks. They focus on components of the curriculum in isolation. They have little real interest in content and its application.

Strategic learning:

Students are motivated to be successful, and they are concerned most with the grade received for a course or module. They choose competition with others as the most important goal and adopt a study strategy thought to yield the highest grade. They focus on what is perceived to be "high yield" for the next examination. Their ultimate level of understanding of concepts is patchy and variable.

Deep learning:

Students have three motivational factors: intrinsic motivation, vocational interest, and personal understanding. They employ learning processes that relate facts and concepts to evidence and make links to integrate across subject matter, they search for a deeper understanding of the material, and they identify general principles. Students have an interest in the content of learning and seek to become able to apply it. They focus on clinical relevance.

Electronic Learning

Considerable learning now occurs outside of the classroom. Traditional study in a library with printed materials has largely been replaced with online elctronic resources, including computer aided instructional materials, as "e-learning."

How can e-learning become more useful? Deep learning through electronic resources increases when students engage in e-learning prior to teaching exercises, and when e-learning is applied to patient situations (real or simulated). Students who discuss and reflect on their e-learning, including use of online assessments and discussion boards, interacting with peers and teachers, do better overall.


McManus IC, Keeling A, Paice E. Stress, burnout and doctors' attitudes to work are determined by personality and learning style: A twelve year longitudinal study of UK medical graduates. BMC Medicine. 2004, 2:29 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-2-29.

Gormley GJ, Collins K, Boohan M, Bickle IC, Stevenson M. Is there a place for e-learning in clinical skills? A survey of undergraduate medical students' experiences and attitudes. Med Teach. 2009;31(1):e6-12.

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