Chemical Education

Shaping student confidence and their perception of learning in undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry courses



This study examined factors influencing student confidence and their perception of learning in the context of undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry courses. Anonymous online surveys were used to measure the extent to which small group work influenced student confidence in solving problems compared to working individually, as well as how various course factors and the amount of effort and pleasure students experienced during their coursework influenced their perception of learning. Upon examining over 2500 student responses to more than 150 unique problems/exercises across 3 different courses, student confidence in solving problems improved to an average of approximately 8 out of 10 when they worked in small groups, compared to that of 6.5 out of 10 when working alone. Students ranked (i) opportunities to revisit assessments, (ii) the class environment, and (iii) instructor feedback as course factors that were most influential on their learning. There was little if any correlation between student effort and their perception of learning, and their perception of learning only slightly correlated with the amount of pleasure they experienced during their coursework. Taken together, these data highlight the importance of facilitating regular small group work, multistage assessments, good feedback and a pleasurable learning environment for students.

Version notes

Acknowledgements section added


Thumbnail image of Main text.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of Supplementary Materials.pdf
Representative surveys
End-of-course survey on factors influencing student perceptions of learning, and representative surveys on student confidence in solving problems before and after group work including one survey from one class in each of the following three courses: first-semester general chemistry, second-semester general chemistry, first-semester biochemistry