Medical students’ metacognition and perceptions of learning behavior in problem based versus science-based curriculum

Main Article Content

Adrian Gillissen, MD, MSc Tonja Kochanek, BSc Jan Ehlers, PhD


Background: This study explores metacognitive competencies of medical students and provides insight into student’s perceptions on self-regulated and co-regulated learning preferences depending on curriculum type. Once in Germany universities medical students are taught either a problem-based curriculum (PBC) or the classical science based curriculum (SBC), this study evaluates the impact of these two teaching methods on students’ learning behavior.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 28 medical students were performed. Data collection and analysis were conducted iteratively, informed by principles of constructivist grounded theory. These study function as the basis to conceptualize a quantitative questionnaire.

Results: Although learning strategies were similar, major differences between groups were the motivation in undergraduate level. PBC -students preferred early patient presentation in undergraduate courses which eases the acquisition of the underlying scientific knowledge base, further triggering the desire to learn beyond the regular curriculum. SBC -students learn primarily for exams using simple memorization, arguing that the tight curriculum and the amplitude of learning matter impede them to study beyond the necessary evil. Studying motivation in PBC is higher than in SBC students although the latter expressed their excitement to see patients when entering the postgraduate study level.

Conclusions: PBC teaching style and working with patients already in undergraduate level motivates students in learning beyond the required minimum than in SBC. With increasing learning load students focus on exam preparations. The study findings suggest an educational model being learner driven, patient case-centered and preferably based on real time observations in order to better apply medical knowledge to the patient case at hand.

Keywords: medical students, learning strategies, perceptions, curriculum

Article Details

How to Cite
GILLISSEN, Adrian; KOCHANEK, Tonja; EHLERS, Jan. Medical students’ metacognition and perceptions of learning behavior in problem based versus science-based curriculum. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 7, july 2022. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 25 feb. 2024. doi:
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