Working Paper 86
Undergraduate students’ knowledge outcomes and how these relate to their educational experiences: a longitudinal study of chemistry in two countries
Published December 2022

(This working paper is the pre-peer review version of an article published in Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education Research, which is available to view here.)

In this CGHE working paper, we draw on the outcomes of a major CGHE project: The Understanding Student Knowledge and Agency Project. Based on the data from this project, we examine how students’ accounts of the discipline of chemistry in England and South Africa change over the three years of their undergraduate degrees. Based on a longitudinal phenomenographic analysis of 105 interviews with 33 chemistry students over the course of their undergraduate degrees in four institutions, we constituted five qualitatively different ways of describing chemistry. These ranged from describing chemistry as something that happens when things are mixed in a laboratory to a more inclusive account that described chemistry as being able to explain molecular interactions in unfamiliar environments. Most students expressed more inclusive accounts of chemistry by the end of their degrees and the level of change appeared to be related to their educational expectations. These outcomes highlight the importance of understanding the role that disciplinary knowledge plays in student outcomes from higher education and the importance of students understanding their degrees as an educational experience.

Read full Working Paper.