The aim of this study is to investigate students' conceptions of learning in different educational contexts, and analyze to what extent conceptions are contextually dependent. Student nurses and car mechanic students are chosen as two groups, and qualitative similarities and differences between the students are described and explained in terms of the educational contexts: nursing education and car mechanic education.
The study is ‘qualitative’ by its nature, and the phenomenographic approach and grounded theory are taken as the points of departure. Data for the cross-section study were collected through individual interviews with student nurses (n = 60) and car mechanic students (n = 54). Different groups of students were interviewed at the beginning and at the end of the educational programs.
As a result of the analysis, qualitative similarities and differences in students' conceptions were found. Differences among students within a program were, however, fewer than differences among students participating in different programs. In comparing groups of students within the programs, similar trends of development could be identified. Students within both programs used more developed conceptions at the end than at the beginning of the programs. The differences found within and between the student groups could be explained in terms of educational contexts. The results thus showed that conceptions were to some extent contextually dependent.