• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Biology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

This course has been adjusted for remote participants however attendance at on-campus activities is preferable.

Big Questions in Biology is a course about important issues in biology: understanding how biology is carried out, how biology intersects with other disciplines (both scientific and non-scientific) and how it is applied and communicated. Major concepts such as evolution, biodiversity, climate change and the impact of new biological approaches, such as genetic modification, will be discussed and debated. Students are encouraged to critically think about biological concepts in a world-view context, ask questions and challenge ideas, and communicate ideas through writing and discussion. This means that there are no “right” and “wrong” answers for the assignments, but instead students will need to consider the material presented in lectures and apply what they have learned to their views of biology and biologists.The aims of the course are to:

  • introduce current hot topics in biology in the context of both science and society
  • encourage students to critically think about the process of investigation
  • provide opportunities for students to develop information literacy, peer review, critique and communication skills about biological subjects
  • gain an understanding of where biology fits in the broader context of our society
  • gain skills to effectively evaluate and communicate information related to new discoveries of “big questions” in biological research.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Discuss and critique discoveries of biological principles and processes and their contribution to modern technologies.
  2. Construct well-supported arguments about the nature of biological research and its impact on society.
  3. Evaluate and debate the role of biology in our society and how it is applied to global problems such as biodiversity, climate change, medicine, and the use of GM foods and crops.
  4. Acquire, assess and communicate information relating to new discoveries in biological research using peer-review, verbal communication and writing.
  5. Lead and facilitate discussions in undergraduate groups about hot topics/big questions in biology.
  6. Critique and provide constructive feedback to your peers during workshops.

Other Information

Please email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Blogs and responses to blogs (15) [LO 2,3,4]
  2. Critical thinking writing pieces (40) [LO 2,3,4]
  3. Workshop assessments: Peer-review; climate change. (5) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  4. Oral presentation (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  5. Final reflection essay (30) [LO 2,3]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Face-to face component which consists of up to three 3 x 1 hour lectures per week (total 36 hours; 12-week semester) and 10 workshops (~1 per week x 2 hour workshops) of group interaction and activities with guest speakers (total 20 hours).
  • Approximately 74 hours of self directed study which will include preparation for lectures, required readings, writing, and other assessment tasks.

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions during the workshops.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

This course is incompatible with BIOL2201 and BIOL3201

You will need to contact the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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