Higher Education

, 55:303 | Cite as

Conceptions of learning in adult students embarking on distance education

  • Mpine Makoe
  • John T. E. Richardson
  • Linda Price


A 60-item questionnaire on conceptions of learning was mailed to students taking preparatory courses by distance learning with The Open University in the United Kingdom. Complete data were provided by 372 respondents. Their scores on six factor-based scales showed satisfactory internal consistency, cluster analysis identified five groups of students with distinct patterns of scores, and discriminant analysis identified the scales that served to distinguish among the clusters. Three groups had conceptions of learning based on critical thinking, personal development, and personal change, but the other groups had conceptions that were defined in largely negative terms. Adult learners embarking on distance education seem to hold distinctive conceptions of learning, which suggests that conceptions of learning are culturally and contextually dependent.


Adult students Conceptions of learning Critical thinking Distance education Personal change Personal development 



This article is based on a dissertation submitted by the first author in partial fulfilment of the M.Sc. in Research Methods in Educational Technology at The Open University. The authors are grateful to the University’s Survey Office for identifying the sample of students in this study, for preparing and distributing the questionnaire, and for processing the responses; and they are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their comments and criticisms.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mpine Makoe
    • 1
  • John T. E. Richardson
    • 1
  • Linda Price
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Educational TechnologyThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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