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The University of Southampton

NATS1004 Independent Learning Skills in Science

Module Overview

The Natural Sciences degree programme is based on a backbone of modules that employ context-based (also referred to as problem-based or active learning). This approach to learning places significant responsibility on the students to work independently to identify sources of information, to retrieve technical information, to assess information critically and to apply relevant information to a specific task or problem. This module provides students with an introduction to the practice of active learning across three areas of science.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • How to develop a structured approach to problem solving/performing a task involving scientific knowledge
  • How to locate technical information relevant to given task by accessing range of information sources (internet, books, journals, technical experts)
  • How to assess critically technical information retrieved from variety of sources
  • How to integrate knowledge from across various scientific disciplines to develop a coherent knowledge base relevant to a problem
  • An understanding of ethical conduct in science, covering plagiarism, integrity and governance
  • Basic understanding of the principles underlying classification of organisms, Principles underlying the construction and validation of classification schemes
  • An overview of microbiomes, their occurrence and importance for health & disease, ecosystems and the environment.
  • Basic understanding of biogeochemical cycles and the importance of quantitative data


The module will start by covering ethics and integrity in science, and will then develop independent learning skills through scientific contexts: - Classifying living systems - Microbiomes - Quantifying biogeochemical cycle Ethics & Integrity in Science: This first part of the module will address issues of plagiarism, cheating, falsification and reporting within the framework of working in science and technology. It will also cover the specific regulations of the University that relate to ethics and integrity. Classifying living systems: This part of the module will provide an introduction to the challenge of classifying life and will cover some aspects of the linnean system, phylogenetic taxonomy and molecular phylogenetics. These will enable students to describe and compare the structural and functional organisation of the major kingdoms of Life and explain some of the evolutionary relationships among selected groups. It will entail significant group work and discussion as well as independent reading. Microbiomes: This part of the module will provide the first opportunity for students to use the primary research literature to develop detailed technical knowledge in a new area of science. The aim of the part of the module is for students to develop ‘lecture notes’ that give a good overview of the range of microbiomes, their properties and relevance for health & disease and the environment. Quantifying biogeochemical cycles: This final part of the module will focus on the importance of quantitative data in making the transition from a descriptive and qualitative understanding of a biogeochemical cycle (nitrogen cycle) to a predictive and quantitative understanding. It will also highlight the challenges of locating data and assessing critically their reliability, relevance and usefulness.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The philosophy underlying this course is to empower students to take charge of their own learning in the natural sciences. As a consequence the module will make extensive use of the directed and peer-assisted selflearning methods that will be employed in all other NATS modules. The module will consist of a small number of ‘traditional' lectures, which will be used to deliver some of the key background knowledge in areas such as basic taxonomy, phylogenetics, nitrogen chemistry, chemical bonding, functional group chemistry. These lectures will provide a framework of concepts that will enable students to deepen their knowledge of technical aspects through directed reading as well as independent reading. A series of workshop problems will be used to ensure that students have acquired the core knowledge required. These problems will entail independent study as well as group work, and will use peer-assisted feedback.

Preparation for scheduled sessions10
Follow-up work28
Wider reading or practice22
Supervised time in studio/workshop20
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list _Life . .

Comprehensive resources (comprising pdf copies of research papers, book chapters etc) are provided on Blackboard at the beginning of the module. . .


Assessment Strategy

The performance of the students will be assessed through: - individual and group presentations - written assignments Students will be assessed for: - overall understanding of the application of key scientific and technical concepts - accessing a wide range of information sources - understanding and critical evaluation of of research publications and reports - ability to identify risks and ethical issues


Workshop activities


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 20%
Assignment 80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


There are no additional costs associated with this module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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