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Publication - Dr Andrew Doherty

    Utilising diverse teaching activities to support first year students

    Citation

    Howarth, J, Doherty, A & Fitzjohn, S, 2016, ‘Utilising diverse teaching activities to support first year students’.

    Abstract

    Over the past few years’ neuroscience undergraduate teaching at Bristol has undergone a number of changes, the most challenging of which has been the conversion of what was traditionally second year material and delivering it to first year students. Whilst this responded to the requests for specialist teaching related to their core subject, it also highlighted the lack of understanding of the wider subject context by first year students and more importantly what is the appropriate content and how do you deliver this at the appropriate level. This year we have developed two new units, with a focus on the broader aspects of neuroscience. Previous teaching activities included traditional lectures and human anatomy teaching, focusing on the anatomical side to the subject and ignoring the breadth and diversity of neuroscience that may have inspired students to their chosen degree programme. During the talk we aim to showcase activities from workshops and practical sessions and present some student feedback obtained. Our new curriculum utilises ideas from pedagogy literature, other units within the school and faculty and the general press to create a range of teaching activities and above all encouraging and enabling students to work in small groups in a large-group setting.

    During term 1 such activities included the generation of ‘candy anatomy’ pictures using sweets, creating 3D ‘brain tower’ models to show sensory pathways (Davis, 2014, Greene, 2009) and utilising histology images in quiz. Students reported these structured sessions to be more useful than large group tutorials in helping them to understand lecture content. In addition students completed formative and summative assignments, aiding students to develop a range of scientific skills, such as writing figure legends. New practical sessions (neurophysiology and histology) were also introduced to follow on from the workshops, illustrating how concepts present in lectures are studied experimentally. Additional large-group tutorials sessions for revision and using Peerwise (Galloway & Burns, 2010) were also timetabled towards the end of the unit. Each session aimed to further build on the concepts and knowledge our students were acquiring whilst coping with rising student numbers and large group teaching.

    Our new units showcase many aspects of neuroscience; teaching students about neurophysiology, neurohistology, neuroanatomy and cognition, and we were keen to support students with hands-on workshop sessions, practicals and tutorials. Our aim is to give students an appreciation for the wider subject area, whilst teaching core scientific skills and communication, providing enquiry driven learning and creating a cohort of students with an identity.

    Full details in the University publications repository