Effects of deliberate reflection on students’ engagement in learning and learning outcomes

Ligia Maria Cayres Ribeiro*, Silvia Mamede, Eliza Maria de Brito, Alexandre Sampaio Moura, Rosa Malena Delbone de Faria, Henk G. Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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Context: Reflection in practice is assumed to enhance interest in knowing more about a topic, increasing engagement in learning and learning outcomes. However, this claim lacks empirical evidence, particularly in medical education. The authors investigated the effects of deliberate reflection upon clinical cases on medical students’ engagement in a learning activity and learning outcomes. Methods: A three-task (diagnostic task; learning activity; test) experiment was conducted in August 2017. Seventy-two fourth-year students from UNIFENAS-BH Medical School, Brazil, diagnosed two clinical cases with jaundice as the chief complaint, either by following a deliberate reflection procedure or making differential diagnosis. Subsequently, all participants received the same study material on the diagnosis of jaundice. Finally, they took a recall test on the study material. Outcome measurements were study time and test scores. Results: There was a significant effect of experimental condition on students’ engagement in the learning activity and on learning outcomes. Students who deliberately reflected upon the cases invested more time in studying the material than those who made a differential diagnosis (respectively, mean = 254.97, standard deviation = 115.45 versus mean = 194.96, standard deviation = 111.68; p = 0.02; d = 0.53). Deliberate reflection was also related to higher scores in the test relative to differential diagnosis (respectively, mean = 22.08, standard deviation = 14.94 versus mean = 15.75, standard deviation = 9.24; p = 0.03; d = 0.51). Medium effect sizes (Cohen's d) were observed in both measurements. Conclusions: Relative to making differential diagnosis, deliberate reflection while diagnosing cases fostered medical students’ engagement in learning and increased learning outcomes. Teachers can employ this relatively easy procedure, possibly both with simulated and real scenarios, to motivate their students and help them expand their knowledge, an important requirement for their professional development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-397
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and The Association for the Study of Medical Education

Research programs

  • EMC OR-01


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