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Module BNS-3004:
Advances in Behaviour

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Richard Holland

Overall aims and purpose

Animal behaviour is a subject that challenges those who study it. Rarely does research on animal behaviour result is established facts or clear unequivocal answers. Often two researchers will interpret the data in a different way. New data continuously challenges our perceptions of how and why animals behave the way they do. The study of animal behaviour at its frontier thus requires an ability to think critically about theories, hypotheses and data and make judgements on them based on the weight of evidence. This module thus aims to test the ability of students to think critically, develop ideas independently, record and analyse data and communicate what they have learnt by creating a research project to investigate an unanswered question in animal behaviour. Students should finish the module with an in-depth understanding of advanced topics in animal behaviour and an ability to demonstrate critical thinking and independent learning.

Course content

In the first half this module, we will explore some current subjects in animal behaviour through weekly online lectures, required reading and a synchronous online discussion. The topics are animal cognition, animal navigation, animal personality animal sentience and behaviour related to conservation. These topics have been selected because they are “open ended”: research is ongoing and there are still questions to be resolved. This should give you some ideas of areas to explore for the main assignment as well as providing the basis for the online test that forms the first assignment. In the second half of the module students will explore a topic in animal behaviour to develop a research project proposal.

Assessment Criteria


Awareness of the fundamentals underlying the science, based on lecture material and practical sessions, but with limited or absent analytical ability. Some evidence of lifelong learning skills but with organisational or group-working problems.


A good grasp of the fundamentals and demonstration of critical thought with evidence of additional reading. An ability to present a coherent argument with clarity. A good appreciation of the main approaches employed in the study of animal behaviour and the ability to critically assess their suitability in a given situation. Good evidence of lifelong learning skills, demonstrating ability to work effectively with others and manage deadlines.


An excellent grasp of the fundamentals of the science and demonstration of the ability to analyse, critically assess, and present a coherent reasoned argument based on information from a variety of sources. Demonstration of original thinking and advanced problem solving when evaluating and implementing behavioural research methods. Additional evidence of lifelong learning skills such as ability to adapt to change and motivate others.

Learning outcomes

  1. Engage with the essential facts, major concepts, principles and theories relating to animal behaviour. Demonstrate and apply this subject-specific knowledge and understanding.

  2. Demonstrate the ability to read and use appropriate literature, with a full and critical understanding.

  3. Demonstrate the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (undertaking directed reading, time management, working to a deadline)

  4. Show an appreciation of the methods used in the study of animal behavior and apply scientific methodology to create a research project proposal.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Online test

On online test based on the online lecture content, recomended reading and discussion sessions in weeks 5-9

ESSAY Research Project Proposal

Research project proposal based on an area of animal behaviour


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Outside of timetabled teaching hours on this module, you will be expected to spend time researching a chosen subject area to work up to a research project proposal which will include literature searching, researching study design from core texts and other studies, data input, presentation and analysis.


3 workshops with activities to help develope ideas for a research proposal


Lecture content is available online to introduce each subject investigation and introduce students to the concepts and evidence to be discussed.


Synchronous online discussion seminars to discuss the concepts introduced in the online lectures and the recommended reading.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Engagement with current subject developments and their application.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Demonstrate the independence and skills required for continuing professional development


Resource implications for students

Nothing to pay

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: