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The implication of multicultural education on students' learning approaches in biosciences and pharmacy courses

Zhi Xiang Ng (School of Biosciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Nottingham Malaysia, Semenyih, Malaysia)
Phaik Har Yong (School of Bioscience, Faculty of Medicine, Bioscience and Nursing, MAHSA University, Jenjarom, Malaysia)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 31 August 2021

Issue publication date: 6 December 2022




The globalisation of higher education has created new challenges for educators to remain dynamic in teaching science undergraduates with diverse cultural backgrounds. The current study explores this challenge by evaluating the different personal factors among biosciences and pharmacy undergraduates that affect their learning approaches as well as to identify course-specific teaching approaches in order to determine their impacts on students' learning.


A cross-sectional survey design based on study process questionnaire (SPQ), and approaches and study skills inventory for students (ASSIST) was utilised to collect quantitative data from 129 biosciences and pharmacy undergraduates.


Biosciences undergraduates adopted deep and achieving learning approaches as they progressed through the curriculum, whilst surface learners dominated the pharmacy course. Ethnicity was shown to affect the learning approaches among the undergraduates. Although male undergraduates from both courses were more competitive than the female, elder female undergraduates tend to adopt deep learning approach. Pre-university qualifications did not significantly influence the undergraduate's learning approach. The contrasting finding on the preferred teaching approaches between biosciences and pharmacy undergraduates has highlighted the importance of providing tailored teaching and learning strategies to cater different students' learning needs.


This study has demonstrated the combinational use of SPQ and ASSIST instruments to compare undergraduate's learning approaches with preferred teaching approaches. The current finding could support the development of teaching and learning practice among the biosciences and pharmacy undergraduates with multicultural background.



This study was supported by the Graduate School and School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham Malaysia. Authors wish to thank Dr Valerie Shang from the School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham Malaysia for her assistance in data collection.

Disclosure statement: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


Ng, Z.X. and Yong, P.H. (2022), "The implication of multicultural education on students' learning approaches in biosciences and pharmacy courses", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 1466-1479.



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