Event History

How can we use games and play to encourage students to become active participants in creative learning?

Pen Holland and Katie Smith (workshop organisers)

The most important thing in developing life-long learners is not how they learn, but that they learn because they want to. This workshop discusses how we can harness the desire to play via games and gamification - the embedding of game mechanics or motivational techniques in a non-game environment - and use games as a platform on which to practice research skills, to offer students an opportunity to learn in an uninhibited, independent and personalised way without fear of failure. Delegates have the opportunity to play with some case study games and activities, primarily in the Biosciences but with general applications. The workshop finishes with audience discussion around the pros, cons and potential applications of this approach for students and educators in HE education.

Workshops on this topic have been now been presented to a variety of audience members via a HUBS workshop in July 2017 (for a workshop report, see below), at the 2018 University of York Learning and Teaching Conference and as part of the Forum lunchtime seminar series in October 2018. Details of the conference workshop and a Panopto recording of the presentation (University of York log-in required) can be found on the York Forum webpage. In addition

Transition to Higher Education

Thursday 28th June 2018

RSB Biosciences Learning and Teaching Workshop, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester

Set Chong and Pen Holland (speakers)

Ada Lovelace Day and Biology Week events

Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths which aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and create new role models for both girls and women studying or working in STEM. BTLE runs independently organised Ada Lovelace Day events each year as part of a global celebration of women in STEM, in early October. To find out more about other events around the world, and more about Ada Lovelace Day itself, please visit findingada.com or follow @findingada on Twitter.

Biology Week coincides with Ada Lovelace Day - this is an annual celebration of the amazing world of biosciences, for everyone from children to professional scientists. Visit the Royal Society of Biology Biology Week to find other events, or follow @RoyalSocBio on Twitter.

#ALD2017 #ALD2018 #BiologyWeek #bakeyourscience #BioBakes #craftyourscience #cakeandcraft #womeninSTEM

In 2017, like-minded individuals applied their STEM talents to the art of baking and crafts, brought science themed cupcakes and mathematical meringues to share, and spent an hour knitting a numbat, painting a peptostreptococcus, quilting a quaternary arch, or borrowing a crochet hook to start their own amigurumi STEM role model library or coral reef.

In 2018, people were invited to come to the Biology Pi Lab to try their hand at coding, crafting, or both, to use some of our electronic gadgets to light up LEDs in every colour under the sun, hook them up with conductive thread so that home-knitted socks twinkle as you walk, to express the Keeling Curve by the sample rate of your favourite sample in Sonic Pi, #tweetmytheremin to make beautiful (terrible) music, see how you could automate your houseplant watering, capture photos using a motion sensor, and more...

HUBS workshop: Learning through games and play

Wednesday 19th July 2017

Pen Holland and Katie Smith (workshop organisers)

Department of Biology, University of York

This workshop on learning through games and play was hosted by Dr Pen Holland and Dr Katie Smith at the University of York. Staff from York (Biology, Health Sciences and the Hull York Medical School) were joined by delegates from academia and scientific education travelling the length of the UK and from overseas.

The keynote speaker was Dr Louise Robinson from the University of Derby, who engaged the audience on the convergent evolution of games and education. She introduced ideas of flow (complete immersion) and gamification, and gave numerous examples of how to incorporate games and game mechanics into teaching in higher education, to change student behaviour and improve engagement and learning.

Micro sessions were led by Dr Pen Holland (York: using Lego to learn sampling and analysis for ecology), Dr John L. Morton (South Wales: using jigsaws to interest biology students in biochemistry), Sam Butcher (Labster: enhancing bioscience courses through gamified laboratory simulations), Dr Mel Lacey (Sheffield Hallam: gamification in the first year, and creating an app), and Dr Louise Robinson (Derby: Park Life, a board game for conservation). Although these represented a wide range of angles from which to approach games and play, a number of common topics became apparent. Key among these were the promotion of teamwork among students, improved attendance and engagement with the course, and the opportunity and freedom to fail safely.

Plenty of time was built into the schedule for conversation, and this was kick-started by a riotous game of delegate Top Trumps, using information about areas of bioscience interest, favourite games, etc. One way to get started with games in teaching is to use a game that you like and know well, and think about how it can be adapted to be a teaching tool. To this end, a range of card and board games were available for delegates to play with and talk about over lunch and coffee. The day finished with group discussions about the use of games for teaching and scholarship in the biosciences on an individual and an institutional level. The mix of listening and doing in an informal atmosphere made the day a great success, and everyone went home with new friends and new ideas.

Department of Biology Teaching and Learning Seminar Series


Thursday 27 June 2019, 12.00 noon

Dr. David Smith, NTF, SFHEA, Royal Society of Biology HE teacher of the year 2019

Reader in Biochemistry, Department of Biosciences and Chemistry, Sheffield Hallam University

Who goes where? The importance of peer groups and social interactions in the laboratory and lecture space

Peer groups have a strong influence on student attainment and the broader educational experience. This talk will directly investigate the drivers for peer group formation and how these groups interact within both the lecture theatre and laboratory environments. In both learning spaces students tend to cluster in peer groups of similar academic ability, with pockets of high and low achieving students working together. The research highlights the critical role that social ties play in successful academic outcomes and the positive effects of inclusive practices and alleviating social anxiety during study. Outcomes of the research were used to inform interventions that facilitate interactions between groups of differing ability and with the tutor during teaching sessions. The practical application of these interventions and their effectiveness will be shared during the talk. This work formed the basis of the Royal Society of Biology HE teacher of the year case study and has been shared in blogs and publications.


FEBS Open Bio, Volume: 8, Issue: 9, Pages: 1368-1378. First published: 21 August 2018. DOI: 10.1002/2211-5463.12494

Location: M052

Host: Setareh Chong

Monday 25 March 2019, 13.00

Dr. Andrew Kerrigan, Associate Lecturer and Programme Manager in the Centre for Global Programmes, University of York

Fostering Students' Creative Competence: Insights from a Fellow Practitioner

In recent years, creativity has become a buzzword in the education sector, and there are good reasons why practitioners should provide opportunities for students to develop creative competence during their degree. Already as undergraduates, students are required to exhibit evidence of originality in their course work to achieve the higher bands. Beyond the academy, the creative industries, including STEM subjects such as gaming, software development and R&D, have grown at nearly twice the rate of the economy since 2010, while large scale economic and technological changes are transforming the world of work and setting a higher value on creativity as a uniquely human resource. Yet what exactly is creativity? What does it look like in STEM disciplines? And how can STEM practitioners adapt their pedagogies to foster students' creative competence? This session begins by acknowledging the academic, economic and technological arguments for creative pedagogies. It then provides participants with a simple metaphor they can use to better conceive of creativity as a collection of discrete subskills in the areas of imagination, knowledge and attitude. Drawing as far as possible on examples from science and the history of scientific discovery, the presenter then provides some practical activities he has devised to raise-awareness of and practise these subskills in mixed disciplinary groups. At the end of the session, the presenter aims to set aside some time so that practitioners can share their impressions on ways in which they might adapt these ideas for their own contexts.

Location: M052

Host: Setareh Chong


Tuesday 4 December 2018, 12.00 Noon

Dr. Jonathan Tummons, School of Education, Durham University

Exploring technologically rich teaching spaces in universities: medical education in Canada

In this seminar I will discuss the findings from a three-year ethnography of distributed medical education at one Canadian University, delivered across two Canadian provinces. It explores the ways in which students and staff work inside the technologically rich teaching environments within which the curriculum is delivered. Drawing on data constructed through observations, interviews, document analysis, and photographs, I will seek to explore how the key concept of comparability of provision is accomplished and to contrast dominant, institutional discourses of technology use in higher education teaching with the everyday practices of staff and students. I will argue that the education received at both campuses is comparable. However, simply to attribute this comparability to the technology itself is to ignore the central role that is played by the staff – academic, administrative and audio-visual. I will conclude by arguing that people will always respond to technologies in unanticipated ways, and that staff and students at the different sites need to be researched in terms of the extent to which technology ameliorates learning and teaching; and understanding the everyday work practices of staff.

Location: M052

Host: Setareh Chong

Thursday 5 July 2018, 11.00 AM

Professor Paul Wakeling, Department of Education, University of York

Survey Design in Higher Education

This talk will provide an overview of important considerations for those planning to undertake a social survey, with special emphasis on surveys of HE students. Among other things, this will include whether a survey is the best instrument for the research question at hand; sampling; question design; mode of administration; incentives; response rates and bias; reliability and validity. The aim will be to draw on survey methodology research, example surveys and first-hand practical experience.

Tuesday 11 September 2018, 12.00 noon

Dr. Maggy Fostier, Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, at The University of Manchester.

PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) as a versatile and adaptable peer support scheme that helps 1st year students settle down at University

PASS is a peer support scheme whereby experienced higher year students (‘Leaders’) volunteer to support and facilitate the learning of 1st year students (‘participants’). During an hour long timetabled weekly session, participants are invited by their Leaders to discuss and solve as a group the academic problems which they have identified that week, thus promoting self-directed learning practices and helping them develop as independent learners.

In 2005, we launched PASS for our 480 Biosciences first year undergraduates in association with two of our most challenging lecture units with the aims to:

  • To provide participants with a supportive environment to assist the transition to HE.

  • To support participants with their understanding of course material.

  • To support participants with the development of their study skills.

  • To increase peer interaction and install a sense of community within our large cohorts.

The initiative was deemed a great success, so the following year, PASS became generic to the whole 1st year course (instead of being linked to a specific unit). Our mentoring and PASS schemes also merged and our Leaders are now present during Welcome Week activities too. PASS is now one of our main tool to assist transition to HE.

This presentation will introduce our peer support scheme and its benefits to our students established through a 5 year evaluation. It will also aim to demonstrate what happens in a typical PASS session.