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Module BSX-1030:
Practical Skills 1

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Rosanna Robinson

Overall aims and purpose

This module aims to provide a foundation in the laboratory, scientific and transferrable skills necessary for students to investigate and communicate a range of topics in the biological sciences. It is designed to equip students with the skills necessary for later stages in the course. More specifically, it will introduce safe laboratory practice and risk assessment; basic laboratory skills such as light microscopy, handling of liquids, scientific measurement; the use of simple protocols for carrying out experimental techniques; basic scientific skills for accessing, critically evaluating, recording and communicating information;basic mathematical techniques for manipulation of scientific data; use of descriptive statistics and statistical testing of hypotheses.

Course content

The course will consist of 5 x 3 hour laboratory practicals and one field trip. This will introduce a range of practical skills and students will be given guidance on how data should be collected, analysed and reported.

There will be 2 hours of lectures per week, in which students will be introduced to the philosophy of science and the scientific approach, and to the diversity of practical techniques used in the biosciences.

There will be optional help sessions so that students can become familiar with the use of Blackboard, the library catalogue, Microsoft Word, and Excel spreadsheets.

Assessment Criteria


A good mark (>60%) will be awarded when a student demonstrates an ability to work with a good degree of accuracy, to critically evaluate the experimental data, to present results clearly and concisely and to relate their findings to theoretical concepts.


A threshold mark (40%) equates to demonstrating a moderate level of both practical and transferrable skills and an ability to interpret and present experimental results in a clear manner.


An excellent student (>70%) will demonstrate an ability to work with a high degree of accuracy. They will be able to think critically and synthesise information from lectures and from reading the primary literature. They will display a high level of critical understanding of data, analysis, interpretation and presentation.

Learning outcomes

  1. Perform simple scientific mathematical calculations (relating to molarity, SI units, concentrations and dilutions) and data manipulations.

  2. Keep accurate records, and write well structured, coherent, scientific reports, with well-presented tables and figures and appropriately-cited literature and reference lists.

  3. Work safely in the field or a laboratory and be aware of potential hazards and their associated risk.

  4. Competently use basic laboratory equipment, including micropipettes, light microscopes and dissecting gear.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Online Test 40
Group Presentation 30
Animal behaviour practical report 30

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Lectures to introduce: the philosophy of science and the scientific method; topics in biology and practical classes; transferrable skills required for scientific investigation and presentation. Class activities relating to skills development.

Practical classes and workshops

5 x 3 hour laboratory practicals and 1 x 2 hour field trip.


Optional tutorials and computer help sessions.

Private study

Directed study, writing practical reports and formative assessments.


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
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation


Resource implications for students

Students will need a lab coat, appropriate outdoor clothing for field trips, plus paper, pen and ruler.

Reading list

Recommended texts:

Jones, Reed, Weyers (2016). "Practical Skills in Biology" 6th Edition, Pearson.

Hawkins' (2014) "Biomeasurement", 3rd Edition. Oxford.

Other tests will be recommended by practical leaders for specific assignments.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: