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Module titlePlants
Module codeBIO1338
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor John Love (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module aims to introduce you to the important concepts, techniques and applications of modern plant science, and to explore the impact of plants on the biosphere, agriculture and society.

In order to take BIO1338 you should normally have an A Level (or equivalent) in Biology.

Module aims - intentions of the module

As primary producers, plants are fundamental to life on Earth. Stage 1 “Plants” aims to provide you with a fundamental understanding of important topics in plant science including the evolution of plant cells, the basic morphology of different plant groups, the physical constraints that influence the diversity of plant forms, the environmental and endogenous regulators of plant growth and plant reproduction. The importance of light, CO2 and water for plant life, evolution and morphology will be discussed against the background of environmental change. Light sensing, photosynthesis, and the strategies that plants employ to maximise carbon capture and water use efficiency will be explored. Using pertinent case-studies and research, we will also investigate the molecular and physiological basis for human exploitation of the plant world through agriculture, plant breeding, GM technology and Synthetic Biology.

Lectures will be supplemented by practical classes in which you will perform experiments to expand and integrate your theoretical knowledge and further your awareness of the scientific method. In lectures and practical classes, you will take part in guided and/or self-directed discussions to increase your understanding of the topics under investigation. You are expected to supplement knowledge gained from lectures and reference to the online materials provided by self-directed reading from textbooks and literature appropriate to the level (e.g. reviews and selected primary sources).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe the basic biology and evolution of different plant groups and of the plant cell.
  • 2. Understand the biophysical constraints to plant evolution and their effects on plant structure, physiology and growth.
  • 3. Discuss photosynthesis and water-relations in lower and in higher plant groups.
  • 4. Explain plant reproductive strategies, including the alternation of generations and pollination syndromes.
  • 5. Understand the physiological and molecular basis of key aspects of plant development and cellular differentiation, including the concept of continuous embryogenesis.
  • 6. Describe how plants sense and transduce environmental and endogenous stimuli to optimise growth.
  • 7. Outline the different ways in which humans exploit the plant world.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Discuss plant science, including essential facts and theory in molecular biology, cell biology and physiology.
  • 9. Describe and begin to evaluate aspects of current research and applications in plant science with reference to textbooks, guided observation and learning activities.
  • 10. With some guidance, deploy core practical skills that are commonly used in plant science research, and appreciate the theoretical basis of the techniques learned and the context in which they are applied.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 11. Integrate and communicate scientific ideas effectively by written, oral and visual means.
  • 12. With some guidance, study autonomously and undertake experiments in plant science.
  • 13. With direction, select and properly manage information drawn from provided materials and lectures, textbooks, practical research experience and the internet.
  • 14. Interact effectively in a group to perform specified tasks.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will include lectures, bespoke online learning resources and practical classes that address the following topics:

  • The biophysical world of plants.
  • Plant phylogeny and endosymbioses.
  • The alternation of generations.
  • Light – photoreceptors, the chloroplast and photosynthesis (C3, C4 and Crassulacean Acid Metabolism).
  • Water relations and adaptations to life on land.
  • Plant growth regulators (with practical class).
  • Gametogenesis, fertilisation and embryogenesis in flowering plants.
  • Plant meristematic development and the molecular and cellular basis of continuous embryogenesis.
  • Plant metabolism and secondary products.
  • Environmental signal transduction.
  • Plant breeding and agriculture.
  • Genetic modification (GM) and plant synthetic biology.

Accessibility statement:

As part of this course, you will undertake laboratory sessions in the large teaching laboratory (of up to 200 students) that are 3 h in duration and may involve standing for long periods although special requirements are accommodated.  Laboratory PPE is compulsory.  These sessions will be undertaken in pairs or groups, and all sessions involve intense laboratory work. No drinks are allowed in the laboratory but breaks are possible and students may leave the laboratory for short periods if required.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures and group discussion
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Laboratory practicals and group discussion (6 x 3 hours & 1 x 2 hours)
Guided Independent Study18Practical data handling and writing-up
Guided Independent Study60Lecture consolidation, reading and engagement with online resources
Guided Independent Study30Revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical class lab notebook and exercises.1 lab notebook1, 5, 6, 10,-14Oral and written
Mid-term module examination (MCQ) and/or formative quizzes1 hour1-8, 12Oral and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical-based continuous assessment20Continuous assessment of practical class handbook and laboratory reports1, 5, 6, 10-14Oral and written
MCQ examination801 hour1-8, 13Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Practical class continuous assessment Problem-based assessment related to practical class handbook (20%)1, 5, 6, 11August Referral/Deferral
MCQ examinationEssay examination (80%)1-8, 13August Referral/Deferral

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral - if you have failed the module (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Recommended Textbook, available as an e-book:

  • Making Eden: How Plants Transformed a Barren Planet by Beerling, David (ISBN: 9780198798309)

Alternative reading resources:

  • Hodson & Bryant (2012) Functional Plant Biology (Wiley-Blackwell).
  • Campbell NA, Reece JB (2008) Biology, 8th Ed. Pearson. ISBN 0-321-53616-7/0-321-53616-9

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE page:

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Plant, photosynthesis, morphogenesis, signalling, evolution, diversity, agriculture, food, biotechnology, synthetic biology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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