Tutorials for enhancing skills development in first year students taking biological sciences

Nicola J. Cousins, Martin Barker*, Catherine Dennis, Sarah Dalrymple, Lindsay R. McPherson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In order to increase engagement and to consolidate skills, a tutorial-based skills course (module) was introduced as a compulsory component of first-year in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen. We evaluated whether students had attained certain 'graduate attributes' during the course, comprising: transferable and generic skills and intellectual curiosity. Student feedback from course evaluation forms, student diaries and focus groups indicated that the course increased students' confidence in questioning accepted wisdom and helped students to develop generic skills. Feedback forms generally indicated a strong appreciation of interactions with tutors, and also of learning in small groups, interacting with peers within degree programmes, personalised learning, and developing generic skills. The quality of students' experience varied, probably due to differences among students themselves as well as with their tutors. Students' use of the course website indicated strategic use of materials to enhance the development of transferable/generic skills. Activity on the course website tended to be greatest among those students who went on to achieve higher overall course marks. Tutors were more cautious than students in claiming that students were more ready to question information having done the tutorial course. Intellectual curiosity among students was more apparent later in the course, suggesting that students had been learning critical thinking skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-83
Number of pages16
JournalBioscience Education
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Engagement
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Student-centred learning
  • Transferable skills


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