Establishing consensus for the core concepts of physiology in the Australian higher education context using the Delphi method

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Advances in Physiology Education





First Page


Last Page


PubMed ID



American Physiological Society


School of Medical and Health Sciences


The Physiological Society UK


Tangalakis, K., Lexis, L., Hryciw, D. H., Towstoless, M., Bakker, A. J., Beckett, E., . . . Hayes, A. (2023). Establishing consensus for the core concepts of physiology in the Australian higher education context using the Delphi method. Advances in Physiology Education, 47, 419-426. https://doi.org/10.1152/ADVAN.00140.2022


A set of core concepts (“big ideas”) integral to the discipline of physiology are important for students to understand and demonstrate their capacity to apply. We found poor alignment of learning outcomes in programs with physiology majors (or equivalent) from 17 Australian universities and the 15 core concepts developed by a team in the United States. The objective of this project was to reach Australia-wide consensus on a set of core concepts for physiology, which can be embedded in curricula across Australian universities. A four-phase Delphi method was employed, starting with the assembling of a Task Force of physiology educators with extensive teaching and curriculum development expertise from 25 Australian universities. After two online meetings and a survey, the Task Force reached agreement on seven core concepts of physiology and their descriptors, which were then sent out to the physiology educator community across Australia for agreement. The seven core concepts and their associated descriptions were endorsed through this process (n = 138). In addition, embedding the core concepts across the curriculum was supported by both Task Force members (85.7%) and educators (82.1%). The seven adopted core concepts of human physiology were Cell Membrane, Cell-Cell Communication, Movement of Substances, Structure and Function, Homeostasis, Integration, and Physiological Adaptation. The core concepts were subsequently unpacked into themes and subthemes. If adopted, these core concepts will result in consistency across curricula in undergraduate physiology programs and allow for future benchmarking. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first time Australia-wide agreement has been reached on the core concepts of physiology with the Delphi method. Embedding of the core concepts will result in consistency in physiology curricula, improvements to teaching and learning, and benchmarking across Australian universities.



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