The approaches to learning of students in a traditional and in an innovative problem-based medical school

Med Educ. 1986 Jul;20(4):267-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.1986.tb01365.x.


The way in which students approach their learning is dependent on a variety of factors including the characteristics of the departments and teaching to which they are exposed. These factors appear to influence whether the students adopt a surface, deep or strategic approach. In order to explore further the relationship between educational context and approach to learning, a comparison was made between students attending a traditional medical school and those attending a problem-based medical school. The results showed marked differences, with the problem-based school being higher on deep approach and lower on surface approach than the traditional school. This study provides one of the first pieces of evidence of a difference between students in the two types of medical school which can be directly attributed to the educational environment. Students in the problem-based school appear to have an approach to learning which more closely approximates the aims of most medical schools. The results provide support for the philosophies and strategies of the problem-based schools.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Problem Solving
  • Students, Medical / psychology*