Does changing from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered context promote self-regulated learning: a qualitative study in a Japanese undergraduate setting

Yasushi Matsuyama*, Motoyuki Nakaya, Hitoaki Okazaki, Adam Jon Lebowitz, Jimmie Leppink, Cees van der Vleuten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BackgroundPrevious studies indicate that a teacher-centered context could hinder undergraduates from self-regulated learning (SRL), whereas a learner-centered context could promote SRL. However, SRL development between a teacher-centered and a learner-centered context has not directly compared in undergraduate settings. Also, it is still unclear how a contextual change toward learner-centered learning could influence SRL in students, who are strongly accustomed to teacher-centered learning.MethodsWe conducted three focus groups that examined 13 Japanese medical students who left a traditional curriculum composed of didactic lectures and frequent summative tests and entered a seven-month elective course (Free Course Student Doctor or FCSD). The FCSD emphasizes student-designed individualized learning with support and formative feedback from mentors chosen by students' preference. We also conducted two focus groups that examined 7 students who remained in the teacher-centered curriculum during the same period. Students were asked to discuss their 1) motivation, 2) learning strategies, and 3) self-reflection on self-study before and during the period. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis and code comparison between the two cohorts.ResultsThe non-FCSD participants described their motivational status as being one among a crowd set by the teacher's yardstick. Their reflection focused on minimizing the gap between themselves and the teacher-set yardstick with strategies considered monotonous and homogeneous (e.g. memorization). FCSD participants described losing the teacher-set yardstick and constructing their future self-image as an alternative yardstick. They compared gaps between their present status and future self-image by self-reflection. To fill these gaps, they actively employed learning strategies used by doctors or mentors, leading to diversification of their learning strategies.ConclusionsA contextual change toward learner-centered learning could promote SRL even in students strongly accustomed to teacher-centered learning. In the learner-centered context, students began to construct their self-image, conduct self-reflection, and seek diverse learning strategies by referring to future self' models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2019


  • Self-regulated learning
  • Teacher-centered learning
  • Learner-centered learning
  • Curriculum reform
  • Undergraduate education

Cite this