Significance of Biology in Student's life

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The Society of Biology is a single unified voice for biology:
Advising Government and influencing policy.
Advancing education and professional development.
Supporting our members, and engaging and encouraging public interest in the life sciences.
1. Practical Biology Position Statement
The Importance of Practical Biology: from School to Higher Education.
Released December 2010
9 Red Lion Court, London EC4A 3EF Tel: +44 (0)20 7936 5900 [email protected]
Registered Charity No.277981 Incorporated by Royal Charter
2. Introduction
The Society of Biology is a single unified voice for biology: advising Government and influencing policy;
advancing education and professional development; supporting our members, and engaging and encouraging
public interest in the life sciences. The Society represents a diverse membership of over 80,000 - including,
students, practising scientists and interested non-professionals - as individuals, or through learned societies
and other organisations. We are committed to promoting biology as a subject of choice to students in
schools, colleges and universities. We support and recognise excellence in biology teaching; champion a
biology curriculum that challenges students and encourages their passion for biology; support young
scientists through higher education, and provide career guidance at all levels.
Biology is a practical science. High quality, appropriate biology experiments and investigations are the key
to enhanced learning, and clarification and consolidation of theory. Practical activities are not just
motivational and fun: they also enable students to apply and extend their knowledge and understanding of
biology in novel investigative situations, which can stimulate interest and aid learning and retention.
Crucially, practical work gives students an understanding of how biological knowledge is generated by
experiment and observation.
This paper:
• Sets out our position on the importance of high quality practical work to facilitate deep learning and
understanding of biology;
• Sign posts readers to existing high quality resources; and
• Recommends work that will ensure delivery of high quality practical work across the sector from
Primary School to Higher Education.
Importance of practical work in science
Practical work is a key factor in engaging, enthusing and inspiring students, thus stimulating lifelong
interest in science. High quality, appropriate practical work is central to effective learning in science.
The Society of Biology believes that it is important to support and promote practical work in science
because it:
• Stimulates creativity, curiosity and critical thinking
• Underpins and illustrates concepts, knowledge and principles
• Promotes student engagement with the scientific method
• Encourages active learning and problem-solving
• Allows collaborative working
• Provides opportunities to collect and analyse data and apply mathematical skills
Importance of practical work in biology
From the smallest of organisms to the largest, at a molecular level through to the study of populations and
their interactions with a changing world, the inherent variability associated with the practical study of life
processes and biological material requires specific teaching of appropriate mathematical, statistical and
modelling skills.
3. The Society of Biology believes that it is important to support and promote high quality practical
work in biology because it:
• Illustrates the beauty and complexity of the living world
• Promotes understanding of how to extract information from complex living systems
• Provides experience of analysing and evaluating variable data
• Highlights and promotes discussion of ethical issues
• Gives students the skills to tackle global challenges
Professional support for biology educators
Biology educators and technical support staff are vital contributors to the progress of science. As such, they
require training to be competent and confident to respond positively to the unpredictability of working with
biological material and embrace the opportunities afforded by the breadth of the biosciences
To support educators in delivering high quality practical biology teaching, the Society of Biology
recommends that:
• Partnerships are promoted between biology and mathematics educators to support appropriate
mathematics teaching for practical biology
• Educators are provided with professional development, including contemporary issues in biology and
the opportunities that they provide for practical investigations
• Educators, technicians and students have access to experimental protocols and guides to practical
techniques, underpinned by clear Health and Safety guidance and including resources linking
teaching to research
Enhancing delivery of practical biology teaching
Effective delivery requires recognition by management of practical biology teaching as a high priority
requiring commitment to professional development of staff and appropriate resourcing
The Society of Biology recommends that the following are needed:
• Dedicated time commitment to practical work
• Well-maintained, well-equipped, well-designed, dedicated laboratory spaces and access to local
functioning ecosystems.
• Equipment, software, training and technical support including the appropriate use of ICT
• Staffing and equipment appropriate for class size
Role of the Society of Biology
To support the delivery of high quality practical biology at all levels, the Society of Biology will:
• Take the lead in promoting networking and collaboration between schools, colleges, universities and
other stakeholders to facilitate sharing of practice aimed at enquiry-based practical learning
• Collaborate with HE Academy UK Centre for Bioscience to promote the development of practical
and other skills as a continuum from school to higher education
4. • Use the Practical Biology Website ( to deliver high quality practical
resources with an integrated approach to the development of mathematical skills
• Develop a model for Accrediting University Degrees that meet defined outcomes with respect to
practical and mathematical skills
The way forward
To support the delivery of high quality practical biology at all educational levels, the Society of
Biology recommends that:
• Awarding bodies, Ofqual and Universities ensure that practical work supports:
• understanding at all levels of biological organisation
• observation, measurement and analysis at all levels of scale
• problem-solving and collaborative working
• Awarding bodies and the Ofqual ensure that consideration is given during future curriculum
development to the time needed to deliver practical biology that meets the above outcomes
• The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education make a
commitment to ensure stable and robust funding to support investment in infrastructure, provision
and renewal of resources and equipment, and recruitment and retention of personnel
• The requirements for educators to undergo subject-specific CPD in their specialist subject, including
contemporary science and developments in research techniques, are reviewed as part of the
Government’s commitment to the Education White Paper.
Practical Biology Resources
To support the delivery of high quality practical work at all levels, the Society of Biology recommends
the following resources and websites:
• Practical Biology Website:
• Getting Practical - Improving Practical Work in Science:
• The Higher Education Academy UK Centre for Bioscience Resources to support practical biology in
• SCORE Practical Work in Science:
• The Language of Measurement, ASE and Nuffield Foundation 2010 (ISBN: 978 0 86357 424 5)
• Analysing Practical Science Activities to Assess and Improve Their Effectiveness, ASE 2010 (9 78 0
86357 425 2)
• Biological Nomenclature 4th Edition, Institute of Biology, 2009 (978 0 900490 39 2)
5. We gratefully acknowledge the specific contributions of the Practical Biology Task and Finish Group (Chair: Dr Sue
Assinder, Daniel Jenkins (SAPS), Lynn English (NSLC), Dr David Adams (UK Centre for Bioscience), Carol Levick
(Practical Biology website), Dr Laura Bellingan (Society of Biology), Dr Judith Hall (Bioscience Consultant for the
Society of Biology), Karen Devine (BES) and Dariel Burdass (SGM).
The Society of Biology is pleased for this statement to be publicly available and will shortly place a version
on . For any queries, please contact Rachel Forsyth, Society of Biology, 9
Red Lion Court, London, EC4A 3EF. Email: [email protected]
Member Organisations represented by the Society of Biology
Full members
Anatomical Society Marine Biological Association
Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Nutrition Society
Association of Applied Biologists RNID
Biochemical Society Royal Entomological Society
Breakspear Hospital Royal Microscopical Society
British Andrology Society Royal Society of Chemistry
British Association for Lung Research Science and Plants for Schools
British Association for Psychopharmacology Scottish Association for Marine Science
British Bariatric Medical Society Society for Applied Microbiology
British Biophysical Society Society for Endocrinology
British Crop Production Council Society for Experimental Biology
British Ecological Society Society for General Microbiology
British Lichen Society Society for Reproduction and Fertility
British Microcirculation Society Society for the Study of Human Biology
British Mycological Society SCI Horticulture Group
British Neuroscience Association The Physiological Society
British Pharmacological Society UK Environmental Mutagen Society
British Phycological Society University Bioscience Managers' Association
British Society for Ecological Medicine Zoological Society of London
British Society for Immunology
British Society for Matrix Biology Supporting Members
British Society for Medical Mycology Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
British Society for Neuroendocrinology (ABPI)
British Society for Plant Pathology Association of Medical Research Charities
British Society for Proteome Research AstraZeneca
British Society for Research on Ageing BioScientifica Ltd
British Society for Soil Science Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research
British Society of Animal Science Council (BBSRC)
British Toxicology Society GlaxoSmithKline
Experimental Psychology Society Institute of Physics
Fisheries Society of the British Isles Lifescan (Johnson and Johnson) Scotland Ltd
Genetics Society Medical Research Council (MRC)
Heads of University Biological Sciences Pfizer UK
Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Science Syngenta
Institute of Animal Technology The British Library
International Biometric Society Wellcome Trust
Laboratory Animal Science Association Wiley Blackwell
Linnean Society