Educating the next generation of bioscientists: the challenge for higher education in Australia


  • Kristine Elliott
  • Anna Boin
  • Helen Irving
  • Elizabeth Johnson
  • Victor Galea


Traditional science boundaries continue to be challenged, thereby creating broader employment opportunities for appropriately skilled graduates. However, many factors including limited time and resources, diverse student cohorts and large student numbers, may limit good practice when it comes to developing highly skilled bioscientists. Within this context, it is timely to examine the role of undergraduate teaching in educating the next generation of bioscientists. This paper describes preliminary findings from a project supported by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, which is examining current teaching practice in bioscience disciplines. The project is using a qualitative research framework to identify innovative approaches used by educators to enhance the scientific inquiry capabilities of their students. Twenty cases have been studied where the priority to teach scientific inquiry skills has influenced the design of the teaching approach. Cases have been identified from nine universities across five states. In general, the approaches are variations of inquiry or problem-based learning, and have been delivered through online environments, laboratory classes and lectures. Skills that educators aim to develop include: formulation of research questions and hypotheses; experimental design; critical appraisal of literature and ideas; collaboration; communication of arguments and findings. Educational technology has been used to provide solutions for distance and asynchronous communication, collaboration, incorporation of immediate learner feedback, and has been used in numerous ways to enhance the learning experience. While the extent of implementation was diverse, there were some interesting overlaps in strategies.