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Previous research highlighted associations between students’ motivation for medical studies and their learning approaches on the one hand and empathy on the other. Internal motivational factors for studying medicine (e.g., care for patients, save lives) coupled with a deep approach to learning have been positively related to empathy in contrast to external motivational factors (e.g., future earning potential, prestige) and surface learning. However, assessments of these assumptions among medical school candidates are scarce. This study examined the relationship between different motivational factors and empathy among students enrolled in a selection year in medicine by testing the mediating role of learning approaches. A sample of 572 candidates for medical studies answered a self-reported questionnaire half way through their selection year. Measures included internal and external motivational factors for studying medicine, deep and surface learning approaches and empathy. Path-analysis tested the mediation effects of deep and surface approaches to learning on the relationship of internal and external motivational factors with empathy. The deep learning approach partially mediated the significant positive association between internal motivational factors and empathy, while the surface learning approach fully mediated the significant negative association between external motivational factors and empathy. These results suggest that learning approaches could be a pathway by which internal and external motives for studying medicine are related to empathy among medical school candidates. Pedagogical strategies and educational environments accounting for individual differences in motivation and learning may contribute to training students to become professional and caring doctors in the future.
Advances in Health Sciences Education – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 16, 2018
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