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Why do they come and why do they stay? Meeting the needs and expectations of undergraduate students in the life sciences


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Jones, SM, Koutoulis, A and Brown, NR 2003 , 'Why do they come and why do they stay? Meeting the needs and expectations of undergraduate students in the life sciences', paper presented at the HERDSA 2003, July 2003, Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Science undergraduate enrolments have declined steadily over the last few years. The life sciences have been somewhat buffered from this trend; however with a changing student population, it is timely to investigate why students choose to enter university study, and what motivates them to continue. We aim to identify which teaching and learning strategies are most effective in motivating students to begin, and to continue, study of the life sciences, and where additional learning support or different teaching approaches may be required to better meet student needs. We administered anonymous surveys to undergraduates studying life sciences at the University of Tasmania. We sought information on their pre-tertiary education; factors influencing them to enroll at university, preferred learning activities, reasons for continuing/not continuing in life sciences. Over the four year- groups, 50% of surveys were returned. 60% of respondents cited "interest" as their primary motivation for studying life sciences at university, with only 31% citing "career". Inspiring teachers at secondary level were clearly a major factor in influencing students' choices. Once at university, students most appreciated learning experiences offered in practical classes (39.5%), with good lectures rated as important by only 11%. 44.5% requested more tutorials, with only 2% suggesting use of web-based teaching. In 2003, the project will be expanded through focus group interviews. As well as informing undergraduate teaching programs in life sciences, the outcomes of this project will provide future secondary school teachers with tools to help them instill in their students an enthusiasm for science.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Authors/Creators:Jones, SM and Koutoulis, A and Brown, NR
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Copyright © 2003 Jones, Koutoulis & Brown

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