Assessing the relationship between student learning characteristics and academic performance in chemical pathology in an undergraduate medical curriculum

Aye Aye Khine Wamono, Anthonio Oladele Adefuye, Jamiu Busari


Background: Teaching and learning chemical pathology requires that medical trainees interpret biochemical test results correctly (against the background of clinical information) to solve clinical problems, while being aware of factors that could affect results. To meet these competencies, students must possess certain learning characteristics. This study explored the relationship between student learning characteristics and academic performance in chemical pathology. It is expected that a better understanding of the relationship between students' learning characteristics and academic performance will help formulate strategies to enhance teaching and learning of this subject. 

Methods: This study was designed as an exploratory survey. Self-administered, validated questionnaires were used to obtain data on learning mode, learning style and learning approach from 250 fourth-year undergraduate medical students at a medical university in South Africa. One-way ANOVA and Pearson correlations were used to analyse the relationship between each learning characteristic and academic performance. Spearman’s rho was used to study the relationships between the three learning characteristics.  

Results: A response rate of 72% was obtained. The largest number of participants (35%; n = 63) were visual learners, pragmatists (25%; n = 45) and learned using a superficial approach (44%; n = 79). Multimodal learning mode, balanced learning style and deep learning approach were found to correlate significantly with better academic performance in chemical pathology (r = 0.262, 0.307 and 0.467, respectively; p ≤ 0.0001).

Conclusions: Our findings reveal that multimodal learners with a balanced learning style who have a deep approach to learning performed well in chemical pathology. This concurs with findings by studies that report a positive association between these learning characteristics and academic performance in other subjects in medicine. We propose that to achieve effective student learning, chemical pathology educators explore alternative teaching and learning activities to move students towards these positive learning characteristics.


learning characteristics; students; chemical pathology; academic performance

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