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Teaching and assessment

The Department of Biology has a wide and diverse range of teaching and assessment styles in order to best meet the needs of as many students as possible.

Teaching is a mixture of in person and online content, allowing for maximum accessibility, and future access to content for revision. We have many teaching methods, from lectures to small group work, allowing students to become adapted and well rounded through a variety of studying types.

Assessments also have a variety of forms, with the main two being exams and coursework. There are sub categories to both of these, which lets module organisers assess students in the way they feel most accurately reflects their learning and how to apply it.


There's a lot of new terminology introduced to explain all these different areas and styles of teaching. We’ve made a handy guide to what might come up on your timetable so you know what to expect.

These may be online or in person. Normally lasting around 50 minutes, a lecture is a presentation given to a large group of students by one of the module teachers.

Lectures will normally deliver course content, guide you towards recommended or mandatory reading, and may have some interactive elements too. This includes working on exam-style questions, doing mini-quizzes using Mentimeter, and some short question and answer sessions. 

Most modules will have at least one lecture per week. In person lectures will be recorded using live capture equipment, and made available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for referencing and future access to allow students to use them for revision.

Workshops are interactive group sessions where students are able to ask questions, work with others, and complete exam-style questions about the content they have recently learned in order to consolidate their knowledge and identify any gaps. Their frequency and length will vary depending on your year of study and which module you are taking. For example, they may be an hour each week, or a two hour long session every few weeks.

Workshops are a really great space to speak to your lecturers and other students about anything you don’t understand or may be behind on, and give many students reassurance on the progress of their learning.

Within the core modules in 1st and 2nd Year, there will be the opportunity to participate in small group teaching. This allows students to engage in a variety of learning styles and to directly engage with leading researchers and experts in their field. It also lets students develop their communication, problem solving, and scientific writing skills, as well as allowing for informal scientific discussions and conversation.

There are several formats of practical sessions that you may encounter throughout the course of your degree. The most common are laboratory practical sessions, where you will be using our state-of-the-art laboratory equipment in a variety of ways to learn scientific techniques to help you through your degree and career.

As well as teaching in our laboratories, we also make use of our computer labs, where you will learn how to code in RStudio. This will be a great help with any statistical analysis you may encounter, and our expert lecturers will be around to help you out with any issues you may have. 

If you take any ecology related courses or modules, you may encounter field course practicals. This involves conducting research in person in the relevant area of study. This may lead you off campus to explore the environment around us, learning the connections between your studies and their real world applications. 



There are two main types of assessments in our various biology degrees, which can be split into exams and coursework. However there can be a lot of variety within these categories, so here's a handy guide to try to make the distinctions between them easier to understand.

All exams in the Department of Biology will be online. This means that they will be announced on your timetable and on the VLE in advance, along with the time frame, and advice on how long they will take. For example, an exam may be timetabled from 9am to 3pm, with a recommendation that it will take around one and a half to two hours to complete. The large time span allows students to engage with the exam in whatever way they feel comfortable, and accounts for the need to take breaks and work in a healthy manner.

Coursework can take a variety of forms, most commonly lab reports, essays, posters, presentations and coding and statistical analysis. All of these will be explained to you, but in case you need to refer back to them at any point, the basic outline of each one is as follows:

  • Lab reports are a summary of your experiments or research, explaining what you did, what you found out, and what importance this information holds. The relevant staff members teaching you will help you with what sections to include, and any other help you may need. They will have a word limit and a reference list, should include an aim you hope to achieve and should be concluded with if this aim was met.
  • Essays are normally composed of between 1500 and 2000 words on a specific topic or area that the relevant module you are taking is related to. You will need to read a variety of research papers relevant to the topic, and come to a conclusion about the area. It helps to establish a question at the beginning and then answer it by the end of the essay. Lecturers and researchers will be able to support you as you plan and develop your essay, allowing you to understand what you need to do and where you may need to improve.
  • Coding and statistical analyses are similar to lab reports where you will be analysing data. They will have a very similar structure and format, and can be written in similar ways too. The main difference is whether or not the subject is your practical lab research, or your coding and data analysis.
  • Posters are used as a visual method of presenting information, and may be in a variety of sizes (which will be specified before beginning the coursework). They incorporate elements of both written and visual analysis, and allow you to engage with your work in a new manner, developing design skills that can be beneficial for your career path.

Further information

The VLE is where you can access any online resources and learning as well as the submission points for exams and other assessments. IT Support are on hand if you experience any issues when using it.

The basic pass mark for all assessments is 40%. Results that fall between 30-40% can be a compensatable pass, with the necessary credits being made up from other assessments. If you have any concerns, the student hub is available to give you advice, as well as Biology student services and your supervisor.

Assessment feedback is accessible through eVision, and may also be offered to you directly through teaching staff.

The feedback for exams will show you where you gained marks from, and highlight areas to improve on or where your understanding may need more work. For coursework, as well as receiving your mark, you will receive detailed feedback on what you did well and where you could have improved, directly linking to the work you submitted.

This can then be applied to other assessments to improve your understanding and knowledge, and can highlight areas to focus on further when revising, as well as offering conversational points to discuss in supervision meetings to help develop your studies in the way most beneficial to you.

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