“And now for the science bit”: Using examples from biology to engage students in transferable skills development

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Reflective ePortfolios are being increasingly utilised in medical school curricula to capture students’ experiential learning and to monitor longitudinal development. However, far fewer undergraduate science programmes formally incorporate reflective practice, and oftentimes it is met with scepticism from students (and staff). This study describes the author’s attempt to enhance student engagement with portfolios by relating skills content to underpinning science.

The 2021 iteration of the Edinburgh Undergraduate Biological Sciences ePortfolio includes transferable skills guides focused around key themes (e.g. team-working, communication, resilience, critical thinking), in which students are prompted to reflect upon their personal development. A concerted effort was made to include examples from biology in order to increase the perceived relevance to students, such as the neurobiology of resilience, and biological feedback and the stress response underpinning emotional intelligence. Biological Sciences students were asked to provide anonymous feedback on the transferable skills guides following a live portfolio-related webinar.

Thirty-five students submitted feedback. In response to the question ‘Do you think inclusion of biological examples helps to improve your engagement with the themes?’ the majority of students answered ‘Yes’ (66%). The most popular biology-related example was circadian rhythms for the time management theme (38%), followed by the stress response and impact of cortisol on learning and memory for the emotional intelligence theme (28%). Sample of students’ free-text comments: “Circadian rhythms was useful to me in many other aspects of my life, not just time management”; “The inclusion of biological examples was a brilliant way to demonstrate how all of these attributes are directly transferrable to our course at large”; “ Makes the themes feel more relevant and personalised”.

Incorporating examples which relate to students’ primary subject area promotes student engagement with Reflective ePortfolios. These findings have the potential to inform any programme which intends to formally integrate graduate skills development into its curriculum.

[Excerpts of the transferable skills portfolio: https://tinyurl.com/4h7shr5z]
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2022
EventInternational Association of Medical Science Educators Annual Meeting 2022 - Denver, United States
Duration: 4 Jun 20227 Jun 2022


ConferenceInternational Association of Medical Science Educators Annual Meeting 2022
Abbreviated title#IAMSE22
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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