Motivation, learning strategies, participation and medical school performance

Med Educ. 2012 Jul;46(7):678-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04284.x.


Context: Medical schools wish to better understand why some students excel academically and others have difficulty in passing medical courses. Components of self-regulated learning (SRL), such as motivational beliefs and learning strategies, as well as participation in scheduled learning activities, have been found to relate to student performance. Although participation may be a form of SRL, little is known about the relationships among motivational beliefs, learning strategies, participation and medical school performance.

Objectives: This study aimed to test and cross-validate a hypothesised model of relationships among motivational beliefs (value and self-efficacy), learning strategies (deep learning and resource management), participation (lecture attendance, skills training attendance and completion of optional study assignments) and Year 1 performance at medical school.

Methods: Year 1 medical students in the cohorts of 2008 (n = 303) and 2009 (n = 369) completed a questionnaire on motivational beliefs and learning strategies (sourced from the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire) and participation. Year 1 performance was operationalised as students' average Year 1 course examination grades. Structural equation modelling was used to analyse the data.

Results: Participation and self-efficacy beliefs were positively associated with Year 1 performance (β = 0.78 and β = 0.19, respectively). Deep learning strategies were negatively associated with Year 1 performance (β =- 0.31), but positively related to resource management strategies (β = 0.77), which, in turn, were positively related to participation (β = 0.79). Value beliefs were positively related to deep learning strategies only (β = 0.71). The overall structural model for the 2008 cohort accounted for 47% of the variance in Year 1 grade point average and was cross-validated in the 2009 cohort.

Conclusions: This study suggests that participation mediates the relationships between motivation and learning strategies, and medical school performance. However, participation and self-efficacy beliefs also made unique contributions towards performance. Encouraging participation and strengthening self-efficacy may help to enhance medical student performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cohort Studies
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Educational Measurement / standards*
  • Educational Measurement / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Educational
  • Motivation*
  • Schools, Medical / standards
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult