‘Teach Me Chemistry Like a Ladder and Make it Real’ – Barriers and Motivations Students Face in Learning Chemistry for Bioscience


  • Karyne Ang
  • David van Reyk


Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Nursing program come with diverse academic abilities, age, language skills and experience. Many enrol without any prior knowledge of the supporting sciences including chemistry. Moreover, whilst some do possess such prior knowledge, they may have had a substantial break since they last studied chemistry. This paper draws from surveys and interviews conducted to investigate students’ prior knowledge of chemistry and experiences around learning. These were first year students enrolled in a core unit of anatomy and physiology for which, albeit implicitly some prior knowledge of chemistry is assumed. It explores barriers and motivations to learning chemistry and offers insights into what students need in order to gain a mastery of the foundational chemical principles that underlie anatomy and physiology. This research is of considerable importance given that the teaching of anatomy and physiology relies heavily on foundation-level chemistry knowledge. It is of great significance if students can be better supported in the successful learning, retention and completion of their nursing studies. Insights reveal that problems stem from various factors including length of time since their last chemistry studies, language difficulties, students’ interests and motivations in the subject, pace and structure of sessions, relevance of information and the students’ ability to manage the amount of content. This informs future practice suggesting that it is important to scaffold the learning for all students in a structured and relevant manner. Additionally, it supports the development and provision of resources to support students transitioning into higher education from diverse backgrounds.






Published paper