How medical students co-regulate their learning in clinical clerkships: a social network study

D. Bransen*, E.W. Driessen, D.M.A. Sluijsmans, M.J.B. Govaerts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Self-regulated learning is a key competence to engage in lifelong learning. Research increasingly acknowledges that medical students in clerkships need others to regulate their learning. The concept of "co-regulated learning" captures this act of regulating one's learning by interacting with others. To effectively cultivate such skills in students, we need to increase our understanding of co-regulated learning. This study aimed to identify the purposes for which students in different phases of clinical training engage others in their networks to regulate their learning. Methods In this social network study, we administered a questionnaire to 403 medical students during clinical clerkships (65.5% response rate). The questionnaire probed into the composition of students' co-regulatory networks and the purpose for which they engaged others in specified self-regulated learning activities. We calculated the proportion of students that engaged others in their networks for each regulatory activity. Additionally, we conducted ANOVAs to examine whether first-, second-, and third-year students differed in how they used their networks to support self-regulation. Results Students used others within their co-regulatory networks to support a range of self-regulated learning activities. Whom students engaged, and the purpose of engagement, seemed to shift as students progressed through clinical training. Over time, the proportion of students engaging workplace supervisors to discuss learning goals, learning strategies, self-reflections and self-evaluations increased, whereas the proportion of students engaging peers to discuss learning strategies and how to work on learning goals in the workplace decreased. Of all purposes for which students engaged others measured, discussing self-reflections and self-evaluations were consistently among the ones most frequently mentioned. Conclusions Results reinforce the notion that medical students' regulation of learning is grounded in social interactions within co-regulatory networks students construct during clerkships. Findings elucidate the extent to which students enact self-regulatory learning within their co-regulatory networks and how their co-regulatory learning behaviors develop over time. Explicating the relevance of interactions within co-regulatory networks might help students and supervisors to purposefully engage in meaningful co-regulatory interactions. Additionally, co-regulatory interactions may assist students in regulating their learning in clinical workplaces as well as in honing their self-regulated learning skills.
Original languageEnglish
Article number193
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2022


  • Self-regulated learning
  • Co-regulated learning
  • Social network study
  • Clinical clerkships
  • Medical education
  • SELF

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