Undergraduate Students' Conceptions of and Approaches to Learning in Biology: A study of their structural models and gender differences

Guo Li Chiou, Jyh Chong Liang, Chin Chung Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Citations (Scopus)


This study reports the findings of a study which examined the relationship between conceptions of learning and approaches to learning in biology. This study, which used structural equation modelling, also sorted to identify gender differences in the relationship. Two questionnaires, the Conceptions of Learning Biology (COLB) and the Approaches to Learning Biology (ALB), were developed to investigate 582 undergraduate biology majors' (275 females and 307 males) conceptions of and approaches to learning biology, respectively. The results indicate a general trend that, while the students possessing lower-level COLB, 'Memorizing', 'Testing', and 'Calculating and Practising', tend to adopt a surface approach to learning in biology, the students expressing higher-level conceptions, 'Increasing one's knowledge', 'Application', and 'Understanding and seeing in a new way', are more likely to adopt a deep approach to learning in biology. This study also found several salient gender differences in the COLB, as well as in the way in which the COLB affected the ALB. For example, female students tended to express more sophisticated COLB than male students. The 'Memorizing' conception of learning biology held by male students is inclined to engender both deep motive and deep strategy, but this tendency was not found among the female students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-195
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jan 1



  • Biology education
  • Learning
  • University

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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