Relationship between metacognitive awareness and motivation to learn in medical students

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Oct 30;20(1):393. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02318-8.


Background: In self-regulated learning, learning is defined as metacognitively guided, intrinsically motivated and strategic. In the context of medical education, the development of self-regulated learning can be associated with better academic and clinical performance. Hence, this report focuses on demonstrating the association between metacognitive awareness and motivation to learn among medical students in the clinical sciences portion of their education (3rd and 4th years of the medical programme) and characterizing medical students' motivational factors.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study with a qualitative and quantitative approach involving medical students from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil. We have selected validated self-report questionnaires for the evaluation of metacognition (the Schraw and Dennison Metacognitive Awareness Inventory - MAI) and motivation to learn (the Baranik, Barron and Finney Achievement Goals for a Work Domain - AGWD). MAI has two domains: knowledge about cognition and regulation of cognition. AGWD divides achievement goals into mastery approach, mastery avoidance, performance approach and performance avoidance goal orientations. We also performed a qualitative analysis based on an open-ended question: "What motivates me the most in medical training?"

Results: One hundred eighty-five students completed the questionnaires: 103 (55.67%) were men, 110 (59.45%) were in their fourth year of the medical programme, and 152 (82.16%) were up to 24 years old. Only the knowledge about cognition domain of MAI was significantly associated with motivation to learn. We found that higher scores on the knowledge about cognition domain of MAI was associated with the mastery approach goal orientation (p = 0.003, median 0.71, IQR 0.23) and that lower scores on this same domain was associated with a mastery avoidance goal orientation (p = 0.034, median 0.65, IQR 0.14). The open-ended question showed that altruism, personal satisfaction, financial feedback, personal and supportive networks and graduating were motivational factors.

Conclusions: Metacognitive awareness and motivation to learn are closely related. This association may represent a potential target for the educational process, as deans and faculty can adopt strategies focused on promoting self-regulated learning concerning students' motivational factors. This could enhance academic outcomes and promote more enjoyable learning.

Keywords: Learning; Medical education; Medical students; Metacognition; Motivation; Self-regulation.