First Year Biology Learning and Teaching Group

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Current team members: Fiona Bird, Tania Blanksby, Michael Emmerling, Tony Gendall, Adele Harvey, Rickie-Lee Morey, Graeme Oke, Kim Plummer, Kylie Robert, Jodie Young, Robyn Yucel

The First Year Biology Learning and Teaching Group (FYBLTG) was created to address the challenges biology students face as they begin university life. The group works to ensure students are engaged in the classroom and that they have the support they need to study independently.

The group includes unit coordinators, practical coordinators, a faculty librarian and a lecturer from La Trobe’s Academic Language and Learning Unit. This diverse team has been working to develop a clearly defined and consistent curriculum that covers general academic skills such as writing, numeracy and information literacy, as well as laboratory skills such as microscopy.

The group has also created a First Year Survival Guide for the Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering. This guide began as a manual on communication skills for biology students, and has received very positive feedback from students, who find it an indispensable resource. 

In 2011, with the aid of a La Trobe University Design for Learning grant, the guide was expanded to a resource for all first year students in the Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering. In 2012, First Year Survival Guides adapted from the FSTE version were made available to first year students in three other faculties.

As a result of their efforts, the members of the FYBLTG received a 2010 Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation for their ‘community of practice’ leadership approach to curriculum redesign, leading to an enhanced first year learning experience in biology. The group also published a paper in the Journal of Academic Language and Learning on the success of their community or practice.

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