New Ways of Learning (NWoL) - Biosciences at Streatham Campus

What is New Ways of Learning?

The New Ways of Learning (NWoL) committee within Biosciences at Streatham Campus is tasked with spreading good practice around teaching our students. In the rapidly-changing world of Higher Education, this involves everything from understanding new e-learning tools through to the discussion of our philosophy underpinning learning and teaching at the university.

This is especially important in the Biological Sciences as our students are taught through a wide range of methods: from lectures, laboratory-based practicals, small group tutorials and/or seminars and field courses – just about every approach is used across our curriculum! Therefore, our overall our aim is to promote and support good practice in teaching and learning throughout Biosciences at Streatham.

Teaching seminars

One of the most important ways we engage staff and generate discussion about teaching is through our regular series of teaching seminars. These form a natural counterpart to the long-running and successful research seminar series in the Department.

Our seminars include both internal and external speakers, and frequently provide an opportunity to introduce new e-learning tools. For example, the series has included sessions covering NUMBAS (for generating maths-based revision tools and questions), Kahoot (a quick and easy tool to run whole class multiple choice tests and polling) and Labster (the online laboratory simulator).

Thanks to the NWoL seminar introducing me to NUMBAS, I have used it in my first year Ecology module where it has helped even the most anxious of students gain confidence in the required mathematical skills in their own time.

Kirsten Thompson, Lecturer in Ecology

Beyond e-learning tools, the seminars have included experienced staff members reflecting on their evolving approach to teaching or recent teaching award winners reflecting on their successful modes of promoting learning. Often more important than the specific sessions or tools, these seminars have helped to generate a ‘space’ in which to have frank and open discussion about teaching in the Department. This has led to members of staff supporting each other’s teaching, and has helped develop research into the best approaches for teaching and learning in Biosciences.

The seminars are important in relation to new teaching staff, especially those undergoing their formal training for teaching in Higher Education through their Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. The NWoL sessions provide a chance to talk, reflect and gain further confidence in teaching practice at the forefront of excellence in our specific field.

The NWoL seminars have been an incredibly useful forum at a critical transition in my career, as I move from an independent fellowship to a lectureship. The sessions deliver a very diverse set of topics from colleagues and guest presenters at all career stages, and have provided me with a vital opportunity to think seriously about all aspects of my teaching practice.

Robert Ellis, Lecturer and NERC Industrial Innovation Fellow – Sustainable Aquaculture.

Committee chairs