Observations of veterinary medicine students' approaches to study in pre-clinical years

Ryan, M. T., Irwin, J. A., Bannon, F. J., Mulholland, C. W. and Baird, A. W. (2004) Observations of veterinary medicine students' approaches to study in pre-clinical years. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 31 (3). pp. 242-254. ISSN 0748321X (ISSN)


Rationale for this study - This study has two purposes. The first is to explore an instrument of evaluation of the approaches to study (deep, strategic, and surface) adopted by students in the pre-clinical years of their veterinary degree program. The second is to examine relationships between these approaches and a broad range of further factors deemed relevant to the veterinary medicine context. We envisage that a greater knowledge of how these students learn will aid curriculum reform in a way that will enrich the learning experience of veterinary students. Methodology - A questionnaire consisting of the 52-question Approaches to Study Inventory (ASI) and an additional 49 questions relating mainly to teaching, assessment, and study skills was distributed to 215 veterinary medicine (MVB) students in their pre-clinical years of study. Factor analysis was used to ensure that the ASI section of the questionnaire maintained previously reported structure. The internal reliability of the approaches measured was tested using Cronbach alpha analysis. The approaches were described as frequency distributions. Associations between the parameters (deep, strategic, and surface) and 49 additional context-specific factors were investigated using loglinear analysis. Results - (1) Factor analysis revealed that the integrity and structure of the instrument in this context was generally comparable to previous studies. (2) The impact of a high workload was evident in the surface approach, with fear of failure becoming a strong motivating factor and syllabus boundness a widely used strategy. (3) Associations made between the approaches and 49 context-specific factors showed strong associations between both workload and lack of prior knowledge with the surface approach. (4) Grades were associated positively with both the deep and strategic approaches but negatively with the surface approach. (5) A range of learning and study skills were associated positively with the deep and strategic approaches and negatively with the surface approach. Conclusion - The ASI proved to be a reliable and insightful instrument, highlighting specific surface learning tendencies present in the group as well as a deep learning approach, the pattern of which deviates from previous studies on this subject. This study also confirms the value of some teaching practices as a means of supporting deep learning and perhaps challenging surface learning strategies. The prevalent perception of a high workload is notable, as is its positive association with surface learning.

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