Skills in Biosciences - Group Poster Presentations

The new joint Skills Module

Module Coordinator Dr G Brennan

Skills in Biosciences

Staff and students recognise the importance of key generic (transferable) skills in all disciplines in the modern HE curriculum (Leckey & McGuigan, 1997; Bennett et al., 1999; Palmer, 2000; Johnson et al., 2002).

The Schools of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Sciences have each been delivering an introductory skills module in Stage 1 for a number of years. Both these skills modules have been successful in developing subject specific, transferable and cognitive skills in students on the various degree pathways being undertaken. Staff recognised that these modules had a significant degree of overlap and recommended that rationalisation to a single module would be beneficial for both staff and students.

Extensive discussion resulted in revisions that will deliver a single skills module.  A new joint level 1 compulsory Skills module, which integrates both subject-specific and generic skills, commenced this academic year September 2006/07. 246 students have enrolled in this Stage 1 module. Merging the modules has challenged and enhanced team practice.

Objectives of the new joint module - Skills in Biosciences:

The course was tailored to meet the skills needs of students on the different degree pathways, linking, the programme learning outcomes in skills to those of the module. The module includes an introduction to Personal Development Planning [PDP] and its use, particularly as a tool for reflection by the students on how to improve their academic achievement, employability and career prospects, introducing research and research methodology to students.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module the students will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the chemistry of life, the theory of biomolecular, biochemical and microscopy techniques, the role of personal development planning in their own learning and career development, and the process, conduct and reporting of research.

This module, which will be kept under review to ensure that it continues to develop and evolve, retaining its currency, will form the foundation for additional skills development in other modules. Skills delivery by the Biosciences is currently being audited by CEAIL.

This development is timely as the Centre for Excellence in Active and Interactive Learning [CEAIL] was created in order to improve the development of generic and subject specific skills, and enhance student employability. The skills module in Stage 1 has been a key catalyst in this development.

Key, subject-specific & employability skills are being developed within the Schools using appropriate methods of teaching, learning and assessment strategies. The new compulsory Skill module in level 1 offers a significant opportunity for the integrated introduction of Personal Development Planning [PDP] - a structured process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and / or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development. One of the key aims of PDP is to link the overall student experience to employability encouraging students to reflect on performance, effort and approaches to addressing learning outcomes.

The CEAIL through collaboration with St Mary’s Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (NI): Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing will establish a scientific writing unit in the Schools to provide a range of mechanisms to help students develop their writing skills.

By delivering the skills, attitudes and experiences it is the objective of CEAIL that all biosciences students will have a better overt match between their preparedness for work and employer needs.


Bennett N, Dunne E, Carre C 1999.  The patterns of core and generic skill provisions in higher education Higher Education 37 (1);71-93.

Johnson E, Herd S, Tisdall J 2002. Encouraging generic skills in sciences courses. Electronic Journal of Biotechnology 5 (2):15

Leckey JF, McGuigan MA 1997. Right tracks wrong rails: The development of generic skills in higher education. Research in Higher Education 38(3);356-378.

Palmer SR 2000. Student responses to activities designed to develop generic professional skills. Journal of professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice 126 (4);180-185.