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BMC Med Educ. 2017 Aug 8;17(1):131. doi: 10.1186/s12909-017-0965-5.

First year medical students' learning style preferences and their correlation with performance in different subjects within the medical course.

Author information

1
Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education, Astana, Kazakhstan.
2
Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine, Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan.
3
Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine, Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan. chee.chan@nu.edu.kz.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Students commencing their medical training arrive with different educational backgrounds and a diverse range of learning experiences. Consequently, students would have developed preferred approaches to acquiring and processing information or learning style preferences. Understanding first-year students' learning style preferences is important to success in learning. However, little is understood about how learning styles impact learning and performance across different subjects within the medical curriculum. Greater understanding of the relationship between students' learning style preferences and academic performance in specific medical subjects would be valuable.

METHODS:

This cross-sectional study examined the learning style preferences of first-year medical students and how they differ across gender. This research also analyzed the effect of learning styles on academic performance across different subjects within a medical education program in a Central Asian university. A total of 52 students (57.7% females) from two batches of first-year medical school completed the Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire, which measures four dimensions of learning styles: sensing-intuitive; visual-verbal; active-reflective; sequential-global.

RESULTS:

First-year medical students reported preferences for visual (80.8%) and sequential (60.5%) learning styles, suggesting that these students preferred to learn through demonstrations and diagrams and in a linear and sequential way. Our results indicate that male medical students have higher preference for visual learning style over verbal, while females seemed to have a higher preference for sequential learning style over global. Significant associations were found between sensing-intuitive learning styles and performance in Genetics [β = -0.46, B = -0.44, p < 0.01] and Anatomy [β = -0.41, B = -0.61, p < 0.05] and between sequential-global styles and performance in Genetics [β = 0.36, B = 0.43, p < 0.05]. More specifically, sensing learners were more likely to perform better than intuitive learners in the two subjects and global learners were more likely to perform better than sequential learners in Genetics.

CONCLUSION:

This knowledge will be helpful to individual students to improve their performance in these subjects by adopting new sensing learning techniques. Instructors can also benefit by modifying and adapting more appropriate teaching approaches in these subjects. Future studies to validate this observation will be valuable.

KEYWORDS:

Academic performance; First-year; Learning styles; Medical education; Medical subject

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