Biology Educational Special Interest Group (SIG)

The purpose of this Biology Education SIG is to bring together representations from different stakeholders in biology education (teachers, scientists, teacher educators, educational researchers, professional development bodies) with a view to addressing three main issues as the biology curriculum undergoes reform:

  • To address the gap between policy and practice in practical biology teaching in Ireland by addressing the epistemological differences between the two
  • To address how to give teachers the skills needed to foster genuine enquiry-led biology teaching.
  • To address the important role that biology teaching can play in sustainability and biodiversity education.

Biology reaches 61% of all LC students in Ireland compared to the next most popular subject (geography 43%), and has the potential to have the greatest impact on the ecological and sustainability knowledge of all future scientists, activists, policy makers and citizens.  Exploring ways to change the (internationally) didactic nature of biology as a subject that is learned by recipe and examined by rote, into a subject that emphasises the importance of enquiry, scientific practices and critical thinking skills will enable students to make informed decisions around achieving a more sustainable future world.


For further information/queries about joining this SIG, please contact the convenor or the secretary via email:

Dr Natalie O’Neill (convenor):

Dr. Karen Kerr (secretary):

Biology Education SIG Annual Report 2024

SIG members:

Chair: Natalie O’Neill, DCU

Treasurer/Secretary: Karen Kerr QUB

Committee Members: Declan Cathcart UCD, Eoin Lettice UCC, Karen Bacon UG, Jackie Nugent MU, Tom McLoughlin DCU


SIG updates:

The aims of our SIG

  1. Refocus of the biology curriculum at all levels of schooling on plant biology and biodiversity
  2. Support biology educators to develop the skills (laboratory, pedagogical and enquiry-based) required to teach biology as set out in policy documents i.e. enquiry-based biology


SIG events in the past year:

April 2023

SIG Committee Meeting

Aim: to discuss short term, medium term and long term plans for the SIG for 2023-2024.

Short term plan: curriculum mapping of biology north and south of the border to include policy documents, apply for ethical clearance to conduct pre-service teacher surveys and interviews examining their attitudes towards and preferences for topics within biology as a subject

Medium term plan:

Apply for funding to develop a wider survey of in-service teacher attitudes and preferences for topics in biology.

Long term plan:

Apply for Symposium at ESAI to showcase the work of our SIG members in the area of biology education

Targeted professional development plan for practicing teachers.


June 2023

SIG committee meeting

Aim: to discuss the actions we are taking to make an impact with our SIG this year.

An action plan was put in place for the items listed below in the table: presentation at ESAI 2024, mapping the biology curriculum, development of the Biology Educators Association (BEA), networking internationally at ECER to promote our SIG


Action Item Dates Action begun
Delegation for ESAI BE symposium January 2024 – April 2024 Yes
Develop prototype series of practical workshops for inservice teacher professional skills development September-December 2023 Yes
Development of Policy Stance for BE including mapping the curriculum September 2023- September 2024 Yes
Development of the Biology Educators Association (BEA) Sept 2023- June 2024 Yes
Organise a Biology Advisory Group with Stakeholders in BE to identify their needs Sept – May 2024 No
Present at  SMEC, DCU and introduce the BEA to the wider science community June 2024 Yes
Attend ECER (Nicosia) to develop a science curriculum strand within the curriculum network – present the work of the SIG here August 2024 Yes



October 2023:

SIG committee meeting

Aim: organise ESAI symposium, foundation of the biology educators association (BEA)

All members agreed to attend ESAI and present papers on biology education

The SIG committee felt that biology teachers are very underrepresented in national fora (such as the ISTA) and discussed how we would go about founding an association dedicated to the teaching and learning of biology at all levels of schooling, from early years to third level education.

We agreed to hold a seminar in January and invite stakeholders in biology education to meet with us and discuss the issues in biology education that are currently facing educators. Members of Oide, the NCCA, the SEC, lecturers in ITE in the north and south of Ireland, teachers from the north and south of Ireland and other stakeholders were invited to attend the Inaugural Meeting of the Biology Educators Association.


January 2024

Inaugural meeting of the Biology Educators Association

40 attendees present

All attendees were invited to take part in a broad discussion of the challenges facing biology education in Ireland, the issues that need to be addressed and the role of a BEA in addressing these challenges.


As a follow up to the seminar, all delegates were invited to join the Biology Education SIG.


Plans for 2024-2025

  • Follow up communication with seminar delegates and prioritising of action items following the seminar
  • Continue research on curriculum mapping / attitudes to plant biology
  • Further the BEA with a national conference – bring biology teachers together from all levels of education to share practice
  • Have a presence at other science/curriculum conferences to promote international awareness of our work
  • Promote excellence in teaching and learning of biology through the development of further professional development modules for teaching practical work and promoting botanical and biodiversity science.
  • Respond as a group to the new biology specification and to other policy developments across the whole island of Ireland
  • Forge linkages between north and south of Ireland so that teachers in both countries can share practice.


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