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Mainland Chinese Students’ Metacognition, Including their Conceptions of Learning: A Phenomenographic Study in Hebei and Shandong Provinces Open Access


Other title
Science learning
Conceptions of learning
Chinese Culture
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Zhao, Zhanqiang
Supervisor and department
Thomas, Gregory (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Pegg, Jerine (Elementary Education)
Thomas, Gregory (Secondary Education)
Gao, Lingbiao (the Institute of Curriculum Studies & Teaching Material Development, South China Normal University)
Nocente, Norma (Secondary Education)
den Heyer, Kent (Secondary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
There is little empirical study in the literature to study Mainland Chinese students’ metacognition including their conceptions of learning. This research seeks to fill this gap by seeking to understand and describe Mainland Chinese students’ metacognition including their conceptions of learning science and the origins of these conceptions and learning processes. 96 students from 11 middle schools in two provinces in northern China were interviewed and their lived experiences of learning science were recorded and transcribed. Phenomenography was the major methodology applied to search for the common themes and at the same time the variation among the students in conceiving science learning. Seven categories of conceptions of learning science emerged from the phenomenographic analysis: ‘listening to the teacher,’ ‘attending to exams,’ ‘memorizing,’ ‘understanding,’ ‘doing problems,’ ‘hard work,’ and ‘improving oneself.’ Three of the seven categories, i.e., ‘listening to the teacher,’ ‘attending to exams,’ and ‘hard work,’ are not found in the literature of conceptions of learning, and these three categories of conceptions of learning are reflections of the Chinese culture that values hard work, advocates respect for teachers, and holds a long history of imperial examinations. The outcome space of the conceptions of learning is proposed as a holistic structure in which the seven categories of conceptions of learning share equivalent positions, in contrast to the commonly found hierarchical structure in the literature in which the categories are arranged hierarchically from low levels to high levels. The variation in conceiving science learning among the participants resides in the two or more subcategories of each of the seven categories. The origins of these conceptions of learning reported by the students are learning experiences, parents, teachers, peers, and cultural values.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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