Practical and Academic Skills

Module summary

Module code: OBIO1105
Level: 4
Credits: 30
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Science
Module Coordinator(s): Susan Force / Andrew Mendham / Elinor Thompson



This module provides students with a broad practical introduction to laboratory and professional skills:
• Students will develop the basic skills and knowledge needed for working in a laboratory: measuring, weighing and preparing compounds and solutions; collecting data; and health and safety requirements. Practical skills in aseptic technique, chemical handling and laboratory instrumentation will be developed.
• Lab and learning skills acquired will underpin students’ progression into subject-specific degree components
• Coverage of generic professional skills will introduce students to personal development planning (PDP) and capture key recommendations of Skills for Scientists ( and subject benchmark statements for the key subject areas within the School of Science ( Employability skills needed for success in the workplace will be developed through a variety of practical and student directed activities.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1. Select appropriate laboratory apparatus and equipment, conduct experiments in an organised manner, outline observations with care and make accurate measurements;
2. Present and report data in a suitable format, calculate results where appropriate, and draw conclusions;
3. Demonstrate the necessary skills for independent reflective learning and take responsibility for their own academic, personal and career development and planning;
4. Apply a number of core competences essential for graduate study including numeracy, communication, data presentation and interpretation, basics of ICT packages and research informed learning.

Indicative content

Experiments in which generic skills are applied in context:
Chemistry Practicals
• Basic laboratory skills to gain familiarity with the use of laboratory balances, pipettes, burettes.
• Standardisation of an acid and standardisation of an alkali using titrimetry.
• UV/Vis spectroscopy for the determination of the Beer-Lambert law and colorimetric estimation of inorganic phosphate.
• Comparison of methods for end point detection of acid-base titrations.
• Preparation and purification of benzoic acid.
• Characterisation of carbohydrates using chemical tests such as Benedict’s, Barfoed’s, Bial’s and Seliwanoff’s.
• Organic compound synthesis

Biology Practicals
• Basic laboratory skills to gain familiarity with the use of balances, pipettes, burettes in tandem with Chemistry practicals.
• Lab safety and working in aseptic and clean room conditions.
• Experimental design and observation techniques.
• Laboratory techniques for processing of liquid compounds and samples; preparing solutions and biological samples; using stains and indicators; and communicating laboratory information.
• Calculating, reporting and analysis of a range of data types (e.g., spectrophotometer measurements, pH and buffer performance, molarity of solutions).

Professional and data analysis skills:
Students will carry out two sets of tasks to develop their maths and professional skills. i. A taught and online problem-based programme of formative data analysis will parallel appropriate laboratory classes. ii. students will also initiate the PDP over the course of the academic year, to be continued over their programme of study. Reflection will be supported by evidence to support student progression, imparting self-management and professional skills needed for lifelong learning (e.g., working independently, time management and organisation skills) and aiding targets for personal, academic and career development. The assessment of this module segment will be formed of maths quizzes and progress on the PDP.

Data analysis and professional skills may include:
• Numerical and analytical skills, presenting reports, graphical vs textual representation
• Review of basic maths principles
• Reporting on lab experiments
- Referencing; originality; structuring reports and abstracts
• Digital literacy / information technology, ICT packages
- Basic word processing including longer reports; tables of contents; referencing.
- Excel basics: constructing spreadsheets, using sheets, formulas, basic function to support numeracy skills above plus logic processing, text functions, date functions and referencing.
- Basics of developing an online presence
• Information literacy
• Enquiry based learning and research
- Information retrieval and selection
- Using the Internet and the library. Discipline specific online databases
• Professionalism
- Professional code including health and safety
- Reflection and action planning
• Problem-solving
- Problem identification, definition, analysis and review
• Graduate attributes development
- Reflection on what is meant by graduate attributes; consideration of current strengths
- Learning how to learn: learning styles and models
• Employability skills development
- Identity and responsibility
- Managing self; verbal and communication; group working and networking
- Writing CVs and profile page to market oneself and build relationships
- PDP as Continuous Professional Development (CPD)
- Exploring work opportunities for graduates and the recruitment process

Teaching and learning activity

The module will be delivered by means of lectures, typically a 1-hour lecture each week in which generic concepts are introduced, followed by 2 x 3-hour (per week) laboratory sessions (Chemistry and Biology) as specified in indicative content, and additional workshops. With lab-based teaching, the learning model is experiential and student-centred, with laboratory concepts and techniques introduced and students supported while working independently and in groups. Computer-based activities will support some of these sessions in the laboratory and students will complete some work following experiments in a virtual lab in their own time.

Learning will come through the student’s own experience in performing the appropriate operations, integrating data and preparing reports on the exercises carried out.

Typical delivery would be:
Lectures: 1 hour x 20 weeks = 20 hours (terms 1 and 2)
Laboratory: 6 hrs x 10 weeks = 60 hours (largely in term 1)
PDP component: PDP will be introduced in the lectures. Learning is then largely self-directed with opportunity for face-to-face support by personal tutors/academic mentors. The student is required to share with their personal tutors their reflections and plans. The reflections are not only based on self-evaluation but will include regular review of learning and engagement with feedback. Personal tutors will provide formative feedback and engage with the student to assist them with their development. In self-evaluation tasks, students will assess their skills and consider what employers want. Online resources and webinars will be provided to support students in their self-direction with some resources tailored to student-specific needs.


Summative Assessment.
Laboratory report - Weighting 30%, Pass Mark 40%.
Learning Outcomes 1 & 2.
Details of assessment - Report based on practical tasks - Chemistry, 1500 words.

Laboratory report - Weighting 30%, Pass Mark 40%.
Learning Outcomes 1 & 2.
Details of assessment - Report based on practical tasks - Biology, 1500 words.

Test - Weighting 25%.
Learning Outcomes 1 - 4.
Details of assessment - Data analysis and Maths, 1.5 hours.

PDP - Weighting 15%, Pass Mark 40%.
Learning Outcome 3.
Details of assessment - Personal Development Planning Portfolio, 1500 words.

Formative assessment.
Online quizzes, laboratory reports or problems:
• Chemistry labs - Formative exercises include the completion of laboratory worksheets associated with acid/base and redox titrations. Feedback will be provided in the form of model answers.
• Biology labs – formative worksheets and problems linked with and following practical exercises.
• Data analysis – online quizzes on practical session-linked mathematical problems

PDP – formative self-evaluation shared with their personal tutors. Personal tutors will also during personal tutoring meetings discuss with students the contents of the reflective journals and action plans to aid personal academic tutoring.