Where do we stand now?: In the 30 years that have passed since The Edinburgh Declaration on Medical Education, we have made tremendous progress in research on fostering ‘self-directed and independent study’ as propagated in this declaration, of which one prime example is research carried out on problem-based learning. However, a large portion of medical education happens outside of classrooms, in authentic clinical contexts. Therefore, this article discusses recent developments in research regarding fostering active learning in clinical contexts. Self-regulated, lifelong learning in medical education: Clinical contexts are much more complex and flexible than classrooms, and therefore require a modified approach when fostering active learning. Recent efforts have been increasingly focused on understanding the more complex subject of supporting active learning in clinical contexts. One way of doing this is by using theory regarding self-regulated learning (SRL), as well as situated learning, workplace affordances, self-determination theory and achievement goal theory. Combining these different perspectives provides a holistic view of active learning in clinical contexts. Entry to practice, vocational training and continuing professional development: Research on SRL in clinical contexts has mostly focused on the undergraduate setting, showing that active learning in clinical contexts requires not only proficiency in metacognition and SRL, but also in reactive, opportunistic learning. These studies have also made us aware of the large influence one's social environment has on SRL, the importance of professional relationships for learners, and the role of identity development in learning in clinical contexts. Additionally, research regarding postgraduate lifelong learning also highlights the importance of learners interacting about learning in clinical contexts, as well as the difficulties that clinical contexts may pose for lifelong learning. However, stimulating self-regulated learning in undergraduate medical education may also make postgraduate lifelong learning easier for learners in clinical contexts.