What kind of motivation drives medical students' learning quests?

Med Educ. 2004 Sep;38(9):950-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2004.01913.x.


Aims: To describe the patterns of medical students' motivation early in the undergraduate programme and to examine their relationships with learning features and motivational outcomes.

Methods: The Academic Motivation Scale (AMS) was administered after the first medical year to 297 students of both sexes from consecutive classes within a 4-year timeframe. Measures of learner orientation and reflection in learning were also obtained. Academic achievement and peer tutoring experience were recorded during a 2-year follow-up. Quantitative approaches included analysis of variance, correlational and classificatory analyses of the data.

Results: The profile of the students' responses revealed higher levels of autonomous motivation than of controlled motivation although such measures were positively related. Correlation analysis showed significant association of autonomous motivation with higher levels of meaning orientation, reflection in learning, academic achievement, cross-year peer-tutoring experience, and intention to continue with studies. Classificatory analysis identified 4 student groups with distinct patterns of motivation. Analysis of variance revealed significant and consistent differences in learning features and outcomes among such groups.

Conclusions: The findings indicate that medical students portray distinct patterns of autonomous and controlled motivation that seem to relate to the learners' frame of mind towards learning as well as the educational environment. Autonomous motivation had closer relationships than controlled motivation with measures of self-regulation of learning and academic success in the context of a demanding medical programme.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Educational Measurement / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*