Introduction: For Small-Group Active Learning (SMAL) to be effective, students need to engage meaningfully in learning activities to construct their knowledge. Teachers can have difficulty engaging their students in this process. To improve engagement, we aimed to identify the diversity in medical students’ appreciation of SMAL, using the concepts of epistemic beliefs and approaches to learning. Method: Q-methodology is a mixed-method research design used for the systematic study of subjectivity. We developed a set of 54 statements on active learning methods. In individual interviews, first-year medical students rank ordered their agreement with these statements and explained their reasons. Data were analyzed using a by-person factor analysis to group participants with shared viewpoints. Results: A four-factor solution (i.e. profiles) fit the data collected from 52 students best and explained 52% of the variance. Each profile describes a shared viewpoint on SMAL. We characterized the profiles as ‘understanding-oriented’, ‘assessment-oriented’, ‘group-oriented’, and ‘practice-oriented’. Discussion: The four profiles describe how and why students differ in their appreciation of SMAL. Teachers can use the profiles to make better-informed decisions when designing and teaching their SMAL classes, by relating to students’ epistemic beliefs, and approaches to learning. This may improve student motivation and engagement for SMAL.