Changes in approaches to learning over three years of university undergraduate study

Fiona McDonald, John Reynolds, Ann Bixley, Rachel Spronken-Smith


This study aimed to evaluate and compare approaches to learning by a longitudinal cohort of undergraduate students as they progressed from their first to third years of study in anatomy and physiology. The Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST) was
completed at the beginning and end of their first year of university study, and in their final semester. At first year, a surface learning approach predominated; however, at third year, students showed a significant increase in their use of deep and strategic learning approaches compared to first year, although surface learning approaches were retained. The extent to which third-year students took both strategic and deep approaches to learning was positively correlated with their performance on assessment. As students progress through a three-year science degree, they develop deeper and more strategic learning approaches, and assessment and teaching styles probably promote these approaches to learning.


learning inventory; ASSIST; physiology; anatomy; longitudinal study

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