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Undergraduate students’ knowledge outcomes and how these relate to their educational experiences: a longitudinal study of chemistry in two countries

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>5/11/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Higher Education
Issue number5
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)1065-1080
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date23/11/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Are the ways of engaging with the world that students develop through higher education particular to bodies of knowledge they study? In this article, we examine how students’ accounts of the discipline of chemistry in England and South Africa changed 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 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 experiences. In contrast to approaches that emphasise the generic student outcomes from higher education, these findings highlight the importance of recognising the distinctive outcomes that students gain from their engagement with particular bodies of disciplinary knowledge. It further highlights the importance of students understanding their degrees as an educational experience that requires them to commit to engaging with these bodies of knowledge