Learning strategies during clerkships and their effects on clinical performance

M T van Lohuizen, J B M Kuks, E A van Hell, A N Raat, J Cohen-Schotanus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Previous research revealed relationships between learning strategies and knowledge acquisition. During clerkships, however, students' focus widens beyond mere knowledge acquisition as they further develop overall competence. This shift in focus can influence learning strategy use.

AIM: We explored which learning strategies were used during clerkships and their relationship to clinical performance.

METHODS: Participants were 113 (78%) clerks at the university hospital or one of six affiliated hospitals. Learning strategies were assessed using the 'Approaches to Learning at Work Questionnaire' (deep, surface-rational and surface-disorganised learning). Clinical performance was calculated by taking the mean of clinical assessment marks. The relationship between learning strategies and clinical performance was explored using regression analysis.

RESULTS: Most students (89%) did not clearly prefer a single learning strategy. No relationship was found between learning strategies and clinical performance.

DISCUSSION: Since overall competence comprises integration of knowledge, skills and professional behaviour, we assume that students without a clear preference use more than one learning strategy. Finding no relationship between learning strategies and clinical performance reflects the complexity of clinical learning. Depending on circumstances it may be important to obtain relevant information quickly (surface-rational) or understand material thoroughly (deep). In future research we will examine when and why students use different learning strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-499
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • clinical clerkship
  • clinical competences
  • medical education


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