Students' Experiences of Understanding University Physics

Year: 2000


Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Previous research in the field of student learning in higher education has mostly focused on conceptual issues of students at the individual concept or task level. There has been little research of students' conceptions of whole subjects, and virtually no previous research of students' feelings of their conceptual experiences.

This present research aims to analyse students' experiences of studying a whole subject and their feelings associated with those experiences. The sample consisted of two interviews with twenty four first year university physics students. In analysing students' experiences, two related methodological approaches were used.

The first phase of analysis adopted a Phenomenographic approach, resulting in the development of categories of description of the variation within students' meaning of understanding. The second phase of the analysis adopted a metaphoric approach, where the variation within students' feelings associated with their meanings of understanding were analysed.

In this paper, we will present the set of categories of description we developed to describe the variation in the way students conceive of understanding. In presenting these categories of description, the discussion will point towards the beginnings of the metaphoric phase of analysis. In analysing the data using both methodologies, we aim to gain insight in to the nature of individual experience.