RESEARCH ARTICLE: First-year pharmacy students’ prior knowledge correlates with study progress and reveals different dynamics of misconceptions


  • Ilona Södervik University of Helsinki & University of Turku
  • Leena Hanski University of Helsinki
  • Nina Katajavuori University of Helsinki



misconceptions, conceptual change, antibiotic resistance, life science education, higher education


The varying levels and quality of students’ prior knowledge pose a challenge for instruction at university. Due to the scarcity of studies in pharmacy, in this study pharmacy students (N=126) prior knowledge of biosciences was measured at the beginning of their first study year using a questionnaire comprising ten multiple choice questions and a case task. The results of multiple-choice and open-ended questions revealed serious gaps and different-level misconceptions in students’ answers partly related to the absence of elementary knowledge. The level of prior knowledge correlated with study progress measured at the end of the first study year. The study’s findings suggest that it is possible to identify students at risk of delayed studies using this kind of relatively light pre-test. Problem-solving tasks such as case descriptions can be used to detect potential misconceptions. The pedagogical implications of these results are discussed.

Author Biographies

Ilona Södervik, University of Helsinki & University of Turku

Centre for University Teaching and Learning, University of Helsink & Department of Teacher Education, University of Turku

Leena Hanski, University of Helsinki

Division of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Faculty of Pharmacy

Nina Katajavuori, University of Helsinki

Centre for University Teaching and Learning


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30/04/2020 — Updated on 13/05/2020



Research Article