Biology education in Scotland : a study of transition from secondary to tertiary
This study examines biology education at transition from the senior years of secondary schools to the first year of degree course in eleven universities and colleges in Scotland. The student sample comprised the intake to all degree courses in biology in Scotland in 1978. Biology teachers in Scottish schools and those lecturers teaching the student sample were also asked to provide information.In the first part of the report, the curriculum content and teaching methods of biology at secondary and tertiary level are examined from the points of view of secondary and tertiary teachers and their pupils or students. Teaching aim and method varies widely within each sector, and thus for students the transition gap also varies. Students find particular difficulty in adjusting to tertiary education in the areas of motivation to work, knowing what is expected of them by the course lecturers and in coping with the rate of work. How far teachers and lecturers recognise this situation affects students' progress.Secondly, the special circumstances of biology within the presenti.Ieducational system are relevant to transition. Biology is not requiredfor entry to most Scottish degree courses and so it is generally regarded as a low status science subject in schools. Consequently, etudents varyin their previous experience of the subject, especially in some a institutions which enrol students of non-Scottish origin who have been educated in biology to a higher level and with different aims. Thestudents in first year degree courses vary in their responses to the 3 teaching according to their previous experience. For some the first year work is a repetition of biology already studied at school, and for others in the same class biology is an entirely new experience. The fact thatthese students are taught in the same way gives rise to difficulties for r them. Indeed, those students without a previous knowledge of biology showa pass rate in the degree course exams which is 10 percentage points lower k than those students who studied biology at school.The third part of the, report compares the student intake andperformance in the different colleges and universities. The institutions draw their students from different areas; as some of these areas haverecognisably different emphases in school teaching, the intakes show 4distinctive features in the school subjects studied and the frequency with t which their teachers used various teaching methods. This comparison ofdifferent institutions throws light on the relationship between the type of 1 t biology teaching in secondary school and success in tertiary education; the higher success rate of non-Scottish students compared with those from Scotland can be related to the different stresses on independent work and practical work in their schools. Students in tertiary education without a knowledge of school biology experience greater problems learning the course work and doing practical work; these differences arise from their difficulties in coping with the extensive vocabulary and complex concepts where the pace of work is very rapid and a high level of independent study is required. Students experience a lower level of difficulty when they are provided with regular tutorials and written work which help them to gauge the pace and level of their own study.