What are BTLE working on at the moment? BTLE members have a wide range of interests (see below for a few ideas). We would like to collaborate with staff and students within the Department of Biology, across the University of York, and beyond. Email biol-btle@york.ac.uk if you want to get involved, suggest a new project, or just to express an interest in what we're doing.

Learning through games and play

From early babyhood to adulthood, people engage in learning through games and play, from building blocks to table top games and video games. Harnessing this natural desire to play in the classroom offers an opportunity for students to learn in an uninhibited way, often helping students with anxiety (e.g. about mathematics) to engage with course material without fear of failure, and thus enhancing the quality of student learning. We use Lego in community ecology, learn about foraging using role play, and make board and card games to explore infection and invasion processes and to understand how very small things can affect very large processes.

Public Outreach

The Department of Biology runs a number of outreach and public engagement events. Previous groups have included U3A (University of the Third Age) and secondary school children. Events like these publicise science and promote the University. A typical practical that is undertaken by visitors is DNA fingerprinting. Visitors extract and amplify DNA and prepare electrophoresis gels to find out who committed the crime! We also organise summer schools for widening participation schools, to encourage students from all backgrounds into higher education.

Technology in Higher Education

We like to test new technology in our teaching and learning practice, including in-lecture polls, google sites and padlets, exploring whether the lecture capture usage varies among students with differing language abilities, and creating course websites with problem sheets for students to choose their own path through skills development.

Transition to Higher Education

Research by HEFCE has shown a correlation between A-level results and final degree classification. The Department of Biology has data from student admissions on student backgrounds, education and grades, and also gives incoming students a baseline test covering biology, chemistry and mathematics. We are using these to identify whether students' attributes, qualifications or specific knowledge can be used to predict or enhance student performance during their university studies.

BTLE Summer School

Summer studentships in Biology-related projects to support future teaching and scholarship activities in the department will be advertised in spring of each year when available. Projects in 2018 included developing the Catastrophic card game to motivate and engage first year Animal and Plant Biology students, supporting the creation of digital content for a Life Sciences skills hub, and creating a prototype programmable microscope for zebrafish larvae. BTLE projects offer undergraduate students an opportunity to develop old and new skills, meet people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, enhance their CVs and be part of projects with the potential for high impact on students in the department, at the university, and beyond.