Context: Inventories monitoring students' learning approaches are widely used in medical education research. It is important that teaching interventions adopted in medical schools aim to develop a deep approach to learning in medical students. Objective: To study the changes in medical students' approaches to learning before and after the incorporation of clinically orientated physiology teaching (COPT) in the undergraduate physiology curriculum, using the Short Inventory of Approaches to Learning (SIAL). Methods: Medical students (n = 223) at Melaka Manipal Medical College (Manipal Campus) undertake a 9-week learning block of endocrine, reproductive and renal physiology in Year 1. During this period, COPT was incorporated along with regular didactic lectures with the intention of enhancing the use of the deep approach and decreasing the use of the surface and strategic approaches to learning taken by the students. The SIAL, which focuses on the learning approaches of students to physiology, was distributed both before and after COPT. Results: The implementation of COPT seemed to affect the learning approaches of students as measured by the SIAL. After the introduction of COPT, there was a significant increase in the use of the deep learning approach, while the majority of subscales for the surface approach showed decreased use. Nevertheless, use of the strategic approach was found to have increased after COPT. Conclusions: The SIAL was found to be a fairly reliable tool with which to determine the learning approaches of medical students. Clinically orientated physiology teaching was successful in enhancing use of the deep approach to learning and reducing use of the surface approach among undergraduate medical students.
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