Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (Research) MEd (Research)


Education & Science


Science and Mathematics

First Advisor

Kevin de Berg

Second Advisor

Dr Cedric Greive


039999 Chemical Sciences not elsewhere classified, 130209 Medicine, Nursing and Health Curriculum and Pedagogy


Previous research has established that students with a limited science background find chemistry difficult, with many nursing students experiencing anxiety and a lack of confidence when faced with studying chemistry as part of their degree. One strategy employed by the institution where this research was conducted to help alleviate stress and build confidence in students with a poor chemistry background has been to offer a non-compulsory, 3-day chemistry bridging course prior to the beginning of the semester.

With Social Cognitive Theory and Cognitive Load Theory acting as a theoretical framework and employing a mixed method approach operating within a pragmatic paradigm, the purpose of this research was to investigate the chemistry experiences of first-year nursing students enrolled in a chemistry course in order to determine relationships between the key variables of self-efficacy, anxiety, prior chemistry experience, perceptions of chemistry and academic performance. The effectiveness of a 3-day chemistry bridging course was examined in light of these findings.

A pilot study was conducted to develop appropriate chemistry self-efficacy and anxiety instruments. In the first phase of the predominantly explanatory sequential design of the main study, quantitative data (N=101) from the Chemistry for Nurses Self-efficacy Scale (CNSS) and Chemistry for Nurses Anxiety Scale (CNAS) obtained at the beginning and end of the chemistry component of Health Science I and qualitative data in the form of focus group interviews based on prior chemistry experience (N=27) were collected in parallel. During phase two, individual interviewees (N=6) reflected on the integrated findings from Phase 1. Factor analysis revealed four chemistry dimensions: cognitive self-efficacy (CS), laboratory self-efficacy (LS), test anxiety (TA), and laboratory anxiety (LA). The laboratory dimensions and demographic variables proved to be of little predictive use, but significant correlations were found between CS, TA, prior chemistry experience, perceptions of chemistry and academic performance. t-tests showed an increase in CS and enjoyment for all academic performance and prior chemistry experience groups as a result of studying chemistry in Health Science I.

Further, TA decreased for the total cohort. Hierarchical regression showed that CS xviii and TA measured at the end of the course accounted for an additional 20.4% of the variance in academic performance after controlling for cognitive capacity and prior knowledge. A path model for academic performance was derived. In addition, themes of ‘connectivity’, ‘reductivity’ and ‘reflexivity’ emerged from the qualitative data, giving rise to a dynamic and interactive model for ‘learning and academic performance’ in chemistry. The 3-day bridging course was shown to be successful inraising CS due to the acquisition of foundation knowledge allowing participants to begin the semester at a level comparable with students who studied senior chemistry. Benefits in academic performance were noted for bridging course attendees when the distribution of scores in the low, average and high achievement groups was examined.

These findings have implications for chemistry educators, particularly of the novice student, and recommendations for implementation are made.


Used by permission: the author.

A print copy of this thesis is held in the Avondale College Library (SC Theses 540.71194 B62).