How, Where, And When Do Students Experience Meaningful Learning?
Meaningful learning occurs when learners actively connect new information to prior knowledge, leading to benefits in engagement and knowledge retention and transfer. Consequently, STEM courses increasingly seek to employ such practices in their programs. Currently, little is known about students’ beliefs regarding the value of meaningful learning and which formats promote it. However, insight into the student perspective is essential to effectively (re)design courses to support this type of learning. We surveyed a large cohort of biosciences students (N = 321) to determine which class formats (lectures, workshops, practicals) and delivery modes (online, face-to-face) they believe maximise opportunities for meaningful learning. Likert scale questions and inductive thematic analysis of open-ended questions showed students believe meaningful learning is most likely during in-person workshop or practical sessions, mainly through knowledge application, problem solving, and interaction with peers and educators. By contrast, students view inadequate opportunities to check understanding, lack of engagement or challenge, and difficulty interacting with peers and educators as barriers to meaningful learning. These findings provide a framework for educators to increase opportunities for students to engage in meaningful learning in their courses.