Exploring the relationships between epistemic beliefs about medicine and approaches to learning medicine: A structural equation modeling analysis

Yen Lin Chiu, Jyh Chong Liang, Cheng Yen Hou, Chin Chung Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Students' epistemic beliefs may vary in different domains; therefore, it may be beneficial for medical educators to better understand medical students' epistemic beliefs regarding medicine. Understanding how medical students are aware of medical knowledge and how they learn medicine is a critical issue of medical education. The main purposes of this study were to investigate medical students' epistemic beliefs relating to medical knowledge, and to examine their relationships with students' approaches to learning medicine. Methods: A total of 340 undergraduate medical students from 9 medical colleges in Taiwan were surveyed with the Medical-Specific Epistemic Beliefs (MSEB) questionnaire (i.e., multi-source, uncertainty, development, justification) and the Approach to Learning Medicine (ALM) questionnaire (i.e., surface motive, surface strategy, deep motive, and deep strategy). By employing the structural equation modeling technique, the confirmatory factor analysis and path analysis were conducted to validate the questionnaires and explore the structural relations between these two constructs. Results: It was indicated that medical students with multi-source beliefs who were suspicious of medical knowledge transmitted from authorities were less likely to possess a surface motive and deep strategies. Students with beliefs regarding uncertain medical knowledge tended to utilize flexible approaches, that is, they were inclined to possess a surface motive but adopt deep strategies. Students with beliefs relating to justifying medical knowledge were more likely to have mixed motives (both surface and deep motives) and mixed strategies (both surface and deep strategies). However, epistemic beliefs regarding development did not have significant relations with approaches to learning. Conclusions: Unexpectedly, it was found that medical students with sophisticated epistemic beliefs (e.g., suspecting knowledge from medical experts) did not necessarily engage in deep approaches to learning medicine. Instead of a deep approach, medical students with sophisticated epistemic beliefs in uncertain and justifying medical knowledge intended to employ a flexible approach and a mixed approach, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number181
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 18
Externally publishedYes



  • Approach to learning
  • Epistemic beliefs
  • Learning medicine
  • Medical students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Education

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