African Journal of Health Professions Education

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Learning approaches used by students in an undergraduate emergency medical care programme

C Mosca, A Makkink, C Stein


Background. Students may primarily use either a deep learning approach (DLA) or surface learning approach (SLA) in response to their perceptions of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors within a given  learning environment. By determining the learning approaches of students, one can provide important information on how they learn within an educational programme – information that can be used for various applications with regard to future structure and presentation of programme content.
Objectives. To determine which learning approaches (DLA or SLA) were being used by students in the Bachelor of Emergency Medical Care programme at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, in each academic year of study. Further objectives were to determine which intrinsic and extrinsic factors  influenced these choices and to assess whether learning approaches differed significantly between  academic years of study.
Methods. This study was conducted using a quantitative design and a validated 20-question survey  instrument. Data analysis was primarily descriptive, but also focused on whether there was a significant difference in learning approaches between the four years of study.
Results. Seventy students participated in the study, giving an overall response rate of 85%. Results showed that most students predominantly used a DLA, and that there was no significant difference between the four academic years of study with regard to the predominant learning approach. More students appeared to be influenced to use a DLA by extrinsic factors than intrinsic factors.
Conclusion. Further research is needed to determine why students choose SLAs or DLAs, and the  influence of the educational environment on this process.

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