How learners learn: A new microanalytic assessment method to map decision-making

Phillippa Smith, Gerry Corrigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Microanalytic techniques have shown considerable potential as avenues for understanding learning in a range of learning contexts. If a microanalytic approach is to be tested for utility, a suitable learning context is required. We chose problem-based learning (PBL) tutorials as our context. Aims: We sought to determine if a new microanalytic approach is suitable for investigating the learning decisions made by students during PBL and what this form of microanalysis reveals. Methods: Stimulated recall interviews were used to question 17 first year graduate-entry medical students regarding the conscious decisions behind their actions during one PBL case. Responses were categorized and used to construct process maps to illustrate the students’ decision-making. These maps and the decisions within them were analyzed focusing on how learners learn. Results: Stimulated recall interviewing (SRI) was conducted, during which students could articulate the conscious decisions they made during PBL. The data collected were used to construct 191 process maps and 802 categorized decisions for analysis. Students’ decisions became increasingly self-centered as the case progressed while maintaining an awareness of group dynamics. Conclusions: The microanalytic approach employed in this study is a suitable tool for understanding the nature of learning in this, and other environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1239
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number12
Early online date21 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 02 Dec 2018


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