Beyond the self: The role of co-regulation in medical students' self-regulated learning

Derk Bransen*, Marjan J. B. Govaerts, Dominique M. A. Sluijsmans, Erik W. Driessen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Web of Science)


Context Medical students are expected to self-regulate their learning within complex and unpredictable clinical learning environments. Research increasingly focuses on the effects of social interactions on the development of self-regulation in workplace settings, a notion embodied within the concept of co-regulated learning (CRL). Creating workplace learning environments that effectively foster lifelong self-regulated learning (SRL) requires a deeper understanding of the relationship between CRL and SRL. The aim of this study was therefore to explore medical students' perceptions of CRL in clinical clerkships and its perceived impact on the development of their SRL. Methods We conducted semi-structured interviews with 11 purposively sampled medical students enrolled in clinical clerkships at one undergraduate competency-based medical school. Data collection and analysis were conducted iteratively, informed by principles of constructivist grounded theory. Data analysis followed stages of open, axial and selective coding, which enabled us to conceptualise how co-regulation influences the development of students' self-regulation. Results Data revealed three interrelated shifts in CRL and SRL as students progressed through clerkships. First, students' CRL shifted from a focus on peers to co-regulation with clinician role models. Second, self-regulated behaviour shifted from being externally driven to being internally driven. Last, self-regulation shifted from a task-oriented approach towards a more comprehensive approach focusing on professional competence and identity formation. Students indicated that if they felt able to confidently and proactively self-regulate their learning, the threshold for engaging others in meaningful CRL seemed to be lowered, enhancing further development of SRL skills. Conclusions Findings from the current study emphasise the notion that SRL and its development are grounded in CRL in clinical settings. To optimally support the development of students' SRL, we need to focus on facilitating and organising learners' engagement in CRL from the start of the medical curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • clinical education
  • development
  • professional
  • qualitative research methods

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