Undergraduate learning at programme level: an analysis of students' perspectives

  • Pauline M Turner

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This research project aimed to understand undergraduate learning at programme level by analysing students’ perspectives. Seventy graduates and undergraduates contributed their perceptions of the learning opportunities they encountered while studying Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Bath, between 1994 and 2005. The methodology employed was qualitative, involving open dialogue (face to face and by email) whereby the students’ concerns dictated the agenda, rather than those of the researcher. Data are presented in narrative form, intended to convey a rounded picture of the richness and variety of students' perceptions of their learning situations, including lectures, practical classes, tutorials, placements, presentations and projects. Preliminary research suggested that learning from professional work placements can be significant, even ‘special’, and placement learning was the initial focus of the project. Research questions crystallised in the following areas: ‘What is the nature of placement learning?’, ‘How does it come about?’ and ‘How does it compare with learning from university-based learning opportunities?’ Preliminary data suggested that undergraduate learning could best be understood through socio-cultural and activity theories of learning (SCAT.Vygotsky, Leontiev and others) but this did not explain the disparity which can occur between intended learning outcomes, envisaged by the University, and the learning which students actually reported. Data from the four year longitudinal study was, therefore, analysed using a framework which was a fusion between SCAT and Theories of Action (comparison between espoused theories and theories in use. Argyris and Schön). The marriage between SCAT and Theories of Action seems to be an informative approach to analysing undergraduate learning in a variety of learning situations, both at university and on placement. In particular, it seems to reveal why students sometimes reported learning little from potential learning opportunities.
Date of Award1 Nov 2005
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorYolande Muschamp (Supervisor)

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