Evidencing learning standards in science: graduate perceptions of gaining knowledge and skills at two research-intensive universities

Kelly E Matthews, Yvonne Hodgson

Abstract


There is a move in higher education institutions in Australia, and internationally, towards the statement of learning outcomes to focus curriculum and allow for accountability of degree programs. Whilst Australian institutions have listed broad, university-wide graduate attributes/capabilities/qualities, science-specific learning outcomes and standards have only more recently been discussed and identified at the national level. The challenge of evaluating program level, science-specific learning outcomes, such as teamwork, communication, writing and quantitative skills along with scientific content knowledge, has emerged. This paper reports the initial phase of a study, which aimed to evaluate student perceptions of learning outcomes gained during undergraduate studies in Biomedical Science via capstone courses at two research-intensive Australian universities using the Science Student Skills Inventory. The results indicate that students gained content knowledge along with writing, communication and team-work skills at equal levels with no statistically significant differences across the two university cohorts. The exception was student’s low perception of building quantitative skills, which differed significantly across the cohorts. The findings suggest that quantitative skills are an area needing further attention. Implications for evaluating program-level learning outcomes framed within the quality assurance versus quality enhancement national policy debate are discussed, along with directions for further research.

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