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Do Medical Students’ Learning Styles and Approaches Explain Their Views and Behavior Regarding Lecture Attendance?

Abstract

Introduction

Medical students’ attendance at lectures, particularly in the preclinical years, has been steadily declining over the years. One of the many explanations offered for this observation is that students have different learning styles and approaches, such that not all of them benefit from attending lectures; however, no studies have specifically examined this possibility. While there is evidence against learning styles as affecting objective measures of learning, they are associated with subjective measures of learning and may therefore influence student behavior. We hypothesized that students’ learning styles and/or approaches influence their views about the value and purpose of lectures and their motivation to attend them, which, in turn will affect their behavior.

Materials and Methods

A LimeSurvey was distributed to all preclinical students at the American University of Beirut. The survey included questions about demographic data, self-reported attendance rates in Year 1 of medical school, two validated and standardized questionnaires assessing the students’ learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, group, individual) and learning approaches (superficial, deep, strategic), and a series of questions exploring the students’ views about the purpose and value of lectures and their motivation to attend lectures.

Results

No associations were found between learning styles or approaches and attendance rates, but this may have been confounded by the mandatory attendance policy at the time. There were, however, a few positive associations between some learning styles or approaches and the students’ views about the value of attending lectures. In particular, students with high scores as auditory learners tended to see absolutely no value in attending lectures, and those with high scores as group, auditory or visual learners, tended to see less value in taking their own notes in lectures. Students with superficial approaches to learning felt that watching videos of a lecture provides equivalent education to attending a lecture. There were no statistically significant associations with either the perceived purpose of lectures or the motivation to attend lectures after correction for multiple testing.

Conclusions

This study reveals that except for some interesting findings related to auditory learners, differences in learning styles or approaches among students cannot adequately explain differences in their attitudes, and likely, behavior, regarding lecture attendance. The idea that learning styles and approaches can influence educational preferences and outcomes, while attractive and intuitive, continues to require supporting evidence.

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Availability of Data and Material

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank students who responded to the LimeSurvey.

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Correspondence to Ramzi Sabra or Nathalie K. Zgheib.

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Mokahal, A.E., Ahmad, A., Habib, J.R. et al. Do Medical Students’ Learning Styles and Approaches Explain Their Views and Behavior Regarding Lecture Attendance?. Med.Sci.Educ. 31, 1693–1702 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40670-021-01362-3

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Keywords

  • Medical students
  • Classroom
  • Attendance
  • Learning styles
  • Learning approaches