Approaches to study and learning environment in medical schools with special reference to the Gulf countries
The main aim of higher education is to facilitate and encourage students' learning. Students' learning is influenced by several factors which have been classified into two main categories: students' characteristics, e. g. learning styles and environmental features. Many instruments have been developed to identify students' learning styles and approaches to study and students' perceptions of their learning environments in many disciplines. However, none of these instruments have incorporated the effect of English as a second language on students' perceptions of their learning environment and learning approaches to study.Within medical schools several inventories have been used to explore the learning environment and approaches to study in the Western countries. However, a limited number of studies have explored such issues in the Gulf region within the medical education context where the English language is used as a formal medium of instruction.The main purpose of this study was to explore students' approaches to study, their perceptions of the learning environment, their motives for entering medical school, their language learning strategies for English as a second language, and their attitude towards learning English. The target population comprised second and fourth year students at three medical schools in three countries in the Gulf region. One medical school uses the traditional curriculum, while the other two have adopted a problem-based curriculum. In addition, two of them operate on a single-gender basis while the third is co-educational The main research methods used in this study are two inventories. One to explore students' approaches to study using the Approach to Study Inventory (ASI). The other is to assess students' perceptions of their learning environments using the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure (DREEM). In addition, two questionnaires have been developed: one to explore students' motives for entering medical school, the other to identify the students' learning strategies for studying English as a second language and their perceptions towards learning English.Non-parametric statistics tests were conducted to test twenty-four theoretical/statistical hypotheses. These statistical hypotheses were divided into four studies: (1) the effect of curriculum, i. e. traditional vs. innovative; (2) the effect of year of study, i. e. second year vs. fourth year; (3) the language learning strategies and attitude towards the English language; and (4) gender differences.The general findings of the study indicated the following: (1) the type of curriculum has an influence on students' satisfaction with their learning environment; (2) the year of study influences the degree' of satisfaction with the learning environment under the traditional curriculum; (3) the type of gender-involvement affects the degree of satisfaction with the learning environment; (4) the type of curriculum has an influence on students' adopting a particular learning approach; (5) learning approaches are consistent regardless of seniority; (6) gender has an influence on adopting a particular approach to study; (7) the most important motives for entering medical school rated by students, regardless of their gender and level of study, is the intrinsic desire to help sick people; (8) there is a variation in the level of importance of motivation rated by both genders; (9) there is a strong relationship between English achievement and the following: medical academic achievement, age at which students were first exposed to learning English, the formal level of study of the English language, language learning strategies, motivation to learn English, the perception of the English course, and the perception towards people speaking the English language; (10) there is a positive relationship between English learning strategies and approaches to study; (11) the three types of language learning strategies are used by students, however the degree of utlization differs; (12) culture has emerged as an important factor influencing learning approaches and learning environment.It is hoped that utilizing the information obtained in this study will enhance the medical education environment and consequently will have a positive influence on students' learning in higher education within the Gulf States.