Conceptions of learning, approaches to studying and personal development in UK higher education

Edmunds, Robert and Richardson, John T. E. (2009). Conceptions of learning, approaches to studying and personal development in UK higher education. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(2) pp. 295–309.




Students in higher education are known to vary in their conceptions of learning, their approaches to studying, and the personal development and personal change that result.


This study aimed to explore the relationships among these four aspects of students' experience; to examine whether there were variations across academic subjects and across departments in each subject; and to explore whether there were changes from first year to after graduation.


Students in the first year and the final year of the undergraduate programmes at 15 departments, five offering each of three subjects: bioscience, business studies, and sociology.


Participants completed a questionnaire containing four instruments and were given a similar questionnaire roughly two years later (when the entering students were in their third year, and when the exiting students were in their second year after graduation).


The students' conceptions of learning showed a clear relationship with their approaches to studying, but the relationships with their personal development and personal change were much weaker. The students' scores were significantly related to age and gender and showed some significant differences across academic subjects and departments. However, there was little change in their scores over time.


Students' approaches to studying are influenced by their conceptions of learning and are relatively consistent across different contexts. In contrast, their reports of personal change and development seem to be determined by their implicit theories on entering higher education.

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