Exploring undergraduate students’ conceptions of learning via auto-photography: A cross-sectional analysis

Wen Lung Huang, Liang Yi Li, Chin Chung Tsai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study analysed students’ auto-photographs with transcripts to understand their conceptions of learning and to compare the differences among different grade levels. A total of 549 Taiwanese college students took photographs and wrote accompanying textual descriptions to illustrate how they conceptualised learning. A coding checklist was developed to analyse the characteristics of the students’ auto-photography, and showed that their main view of learning was alone by themselves, the main learning contexts were outside of school, and observing/experiencing/thinking were the main learning activities. The textual data analysed using the content analysis method revealed nine categories of conceptions of learning, namely learning as memorising, gaining higher status, practicing tutorial problems, a process not bound by context or time, the increase of knowledge, applying, autonomous learning, understanding and seeing in a new way. In addition, in cross-sectional analysis, two main findings were revealed: (1) students’ views of learning shifted from stereotypes of acquiring knowledge (e.g. teachers lecturing in classrooms) in the lower grade levels to observing/experiencing learning outside of school in the higher grade levels; and (2) higher-grade-level students possessed weaker autonomous learning conceptions than lower-grade-level students. The results of this study suggest a possible development trend of students’ learning conceptions that warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-181
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb


  • auto-photography analysis
  • conceptions of learning
  • cross-sectional analysis
  • higher education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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