Collaborative learning: Elements encouraging and hindering deep approach to learning and use of elaboration strategies

Elda Maria Stafuzza Goncalves Pires*, Durval Anibal Daniel-Filho, Jascha de Nooijer, Diana H. J. M. Dolmans

*Corresponding author for this work

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Aim The purpose of this research was to investigate students' approaches to learning and use of cognitive strategies in a collaborative learning environment with team-based learning. Method In a mixed-methods study, 263 medical students from 6 different semesters answered the R-SPQ-2F Questionnaire and MSLQ's items that measure elaboration and rehearsal strategies. ANOVA was used to compare differences between semesters, and Pearson's correlation to investigate how approaches to learning, cognitive strategies, and academic achievement correlate. Focus groups elucidated which elements in the collaborative learning environment enhanced or hindered deep approach to learning or elaboration strategies and why. Results Students took a deep approach to learning and sometimes a surface approach. They used elaboration and rehearsal strategies. First semester's students had significantly higher deep approach than fifth and sixth semesters' students. Elaboration strategies significantly correlated with final grade. Commitment to the group, case discussions, feeling challenged by teachers, and patients' visits were perceived to enhance deep approach to learning and use of elaboration strategies, while overload in course activities hindered deep approach to learning. Conclusions Particular elements of the learning environment triggered students to take deep approach to learning and use elaboration strategies, and this positively correlated to academic achievement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1261-1269
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Collaborative
  • peer-to-peer
  • education environment
  • general
  • small group

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