Emerging Challenges in Postgraduate Teaching in the Biological Sciences

On July 17th the University of Liverpool hosted a seminar funded by the HEA STEM on postgraduate teaching. The idea for the seminar came from Dr Luciane Mello (School of Life Sciences), and delegates from several universities were present. Six speakers helped to make the day extremely productive delivering very interesting and thought-provoking talks. The event aimed to promote a network between professionals specialising in Masters level teaching, as well to share good practice.

Dr Nathan Pike opened the day presenting the structure and major activities of the HEA, covering events, grant funds available, scholarships etc. He invited the audience to submit their pedagogic research to the HEA’s own journal, Bioscience Education.

Dr Ian Willis presented some interesting statistics on feedback from overseas PGT students and pointed out that the impressive size of the PGT market and the unexpected major origins of students.

Dr Nathan Pike then returned to speak about a PGT Bioscience degree that had run in Oxford.  He presented the results of qualitative research into student engagement, attitude and learning strategies, distinguishing between high, medium and lower achievers.

Illustrating the common challenges between Biological Sciences and Engineering when dealing with postgraduate teaching, Dr Matt Murphy discussed the MSc (Eng) programme in Liverpool, describing the impressive diversity in country of origin and culture of the students and their resulting variability with respect to a variety of skills.

Dr Luciane Mello discussed about changes in teaching practice to address the growing student diversity in a PGT cohort. She presented a pedagogical background of self-directed learning (SDL) and how this approach was therefore chosen as a means to address diversity.

Prof Andy Brass presented a fascinating perspective on the changing nature of PGT provision in the University of Manchester, revolving round the concept of the Data Scientist.

Prof Steve Edwards then presented Liverpool’s initiatives in the area of Internationalisation, describing the institutional partnerships already made and the benefits envisaged for students who spend part of their time in a foreign country.

Dr Sue Assinder then presented the various Masters courses run out of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, where students claim great satisfaction with their projects which taught them not just scientific skills but an awareness of the difference science can make to societies.

Quotes from the delegates about the day:

“The meeting has highlighted various issued for post graduate teaching and problems. I am pleased that I have attended this meeting. Very useful.”

“Impressed by the effort and thought that people put into postgraduate teaching.”

“An important and rare opportunity to discuss PGT issues.”

“Useful mix of pedagogical work and case examples.”

The day finished with everyone asking for more opportunities to discuss PGT, which clearly reflects the success of the day.

Please add a comment below if you attended the event and would like to continue your discussions from the day, or if you are interested in this area of activity in general and would like to get involved.

Luciane Mello

One thought on “Emerging Challenges in Postgraduate Teaching in the Biological Sciences

  • I thought it was an interesting day, with lots of ideas and food for thought about what postgraduate teaching is and how it overlaps and is different from undergraduate teaching.

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