The Importance of Active Involvement in Learning: A Qualitative Study on Learning Results and Learning Processes in Different Traineeships

Research paper by A. Wagenaar, A.J.J.A. Scherpbier, H.P.A. Boshuizen, C.P.M. van der Vleuten

Indexed on: 01 Nov '03Published on: 01 Nov '03Published in: Advances in Health Sciences Education


Introduction: In order to gain more insight into learning in different traineeships we sought students' opinions on their experiences. Method: 24 students of Maastricht University, the Netherlands, were interviewed: 8 medical students, and 16 students in the mental health science programme of the Faculty of Health Sciences (8 research trainees (MHS-res.) and 8 trainees in mental health care practice (MHS-prac.). Students' perceptions about instructive, difficult and less instructive learning experiences were recorded on audiotape. The literal transcripts of the interviews were analysed and categorised. Results: The most frequently mentioned learning process was “learning by doing” followed by “actively overcoming gaps in knowledge and skills”. These processes occurred with instructive and difficult experiences. Other processes were “learning by seeing thing sin practice” and “preparation and evaluation”. Learning outcomes were categorised as learning about: working, professional competences and personal growth. Most frequently mentioned – inmost cases with difficult experiences – were “professional knowledge and skills”, “learning about personal growth” and “learning about working”. The latter was mentioned most often by MHS-res. students. Medical students' responses suggested that they occasionally perceived the clerkship environment as stressful. Discussion and conclusions: Although the small sample size precludes any firm conclusions, the overwhelming impression is that students prefer being actively involved in their learning process. In addition, traineeships appear to introduce students to professional working life the hard way. Investigating how teachers and supervisors can stimulate active learning and facilitate the introduction to professional practice might be subjects for fruitful further investigation.