Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning at the School of BiosciencesAn important feature of our degree programmes is that, because of their modular structure, they allow great flexibility and delayed choice of precise degree content, whilst at the same time providing a thorough grounding in core areas.

Biosciences student "The lecturers have been an absolute delight to work alongside. They are all so passionate about what they do and it makes the course very enjoyable!"

How will you spend your time?

As a science student you will have plenty of contact with the staff who teach you. In your first year you should expect 10–12 lectures and 1 or 2 practicals each week; there will also be workshop sessions to help you develop your problem solving skills. You will also have regular timetabled meetings with your tutor and the 3 or 4 other students in your tutorial group. Independent learning, backing up what you have been taught in lectures, and completing assessed work will occupy the rest of your study time.

Lectures

Setting the foundations

One of the main learning contexts you will experience as an undergraduate is the lecture. Our lecture theatres are equipped with the latest equipment and different lecturers adopt different teaching styles; some using the white board and the pen, while others use computer technology including movies and animations, molecular graphics and an electronic voting system that allows ‘ask the audience’ style questions to monitor understanding in the class.

Practical classes

Experimental and quantitative skills

Laboratory-based practical work is an integral part of our degree programmes. A typical practical session will last 3 hours to allow you to complete the work at your own pace. In addition to delivering important transferable skills, experience of practical work is essential if you wish to move into a research career and is valued by a wide range of employers.

Bioschemistry student "As a student studying Biochemistry, laboratory sessions served as a great break from the repetition of having just lectures as well as a solid learning experience."

Tutorials

Discussion, mentoring and transferrable skills

The opportunity to interact with staff and fellow students, to question, discuss and explore your subject, is an important part of the programme. This is accomplished in individual and small group tutorials, discussion groups, and problem solving classes.

Nora Miroslavova, Biochemistry graduate "The accessibility of tutors and their willingness to provide guidance and advice meant that any difficulties encountered during the programme could be easily overcome."

A personal tutorial system is an essential feature of our degree programme and your Tutors will help you in three important areas: supporting your academic progress, developing transferable skills and helping with any welfare issues. A member of the teaching staff will be your personal tutor throughout your time in the School of Biosciences. At the beginning of each semester you will have a one-to-one meeting with your tutor, and throughout the rest of the semester you will have a timetabled meeting with your tutorial group once a fortnight; you are encouraged to see your tutor whenever you need support.

Assessment

Student writingEach module is assessed independently and all contain some components of continuous assessment, which usually account for about one-third of the marks. These assessments take many forms, such as an essay or report, data handling or interpretation exercises, a poster presentation, a seminar presentation, group work or lab report. While some modules are entirely assessed by coursework, most also have a formal examination in the summer. The content of the first year is important and although you need to pass the modules it does not count towards your final degree classification, this allows you to adjust to studying at University. Your final degree classification is based partly on your performance in Year Two modules (25% of degree mark) and partly on performance in your final year (75%).

Feedback

At University you make use of a wide range of types of feedback. Assessments will normally be returned to you with written feedback, other forms of feedback include: class feedback sessions and discussion with your tutor. To help monitor your progress in your transition to study at university you will take several multiple choice tests for which you will get question-by-question feedback within a few days of the test.

Projects and dissertations

Developing academic independence

Opportunities to carry out independent research are an integral part of the final year for all our degree programmes. We offer a range of projects: practical work in the laboratory, field work, computer based projects, or literature reviews. You choose the topic of your project from a wide range of titles. Many students carry out their research project working in a research laboratory alongside research fellows and PhD students on an original piece of work.

Most students enjoy project work as a highlight of their academic training and experience. Project work provides an opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and skills you have learnt in lectures and laboratory classes. It also helps develop an appreciation of the process of original research, which is particularly important if you are thinking of this as a career path; it may also lead to the publication of results in a scientific journal.

Field courses

Field courses are an important part of learning and teaching in the Biological Sciences, especially if you are interested in animals, plants and environmental aspects of biology. 

Barbary macaques at Trentham EstateSecond year field courses include:

Current field courses in the Biological Sciences final year lead you to a research site in Florida, or, alternatively, to Trentham Estate where you will study behavioural ecology and sociobiology of free-roaming Barbary macaques.. 

See our Biological Sciences degree courses.