Teaching Practical Science: Biology

Develop practical lessons to help 14-16 year old students understand biology with this CPD for science teachers.

10,285 enrolled on this course

Teaching Practical Science: Biology
The CPD Certification Service

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. Find out more.

Improve student learning in biology practical lessons

There are only so many ways a student can look at an onion cell, so how do we engage students with biology practicals?

On this course you will discuss the relationship between theoretical concepts and practical work, and consider closely what is happening in your own classroom during biology practicals.

You will also develop and share creative ways of teaching practical biology with approaches that are applicable to a range of situations including GCSE required practicals.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Biology investigates how plants and animals work and interact with the world around us. Biologists ask questions about what they see and carry out experiments to try to answer these questions. From Galen’s anatomical discoveries nearly two thousand years ago to William Harvey’s discovery of double circulation From Mendel’s investigations into the growth of peas and the inheritance of characteristics to the mapping and sequencing of the human genome. This experimentation has led to huge leaps forward in our knowledge and the impact that these developments can have on our everyday lives. Practical activities allow our students to ask their own questions and find out the answers for themselves.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds It allows them to support and consolidate scientific concepts, make sense of new information, and develop transferable investigative skills. Teaching Practical Biology is designed to support the 14-16 curriculum and will illustrate key pedagogical approaches for practical science. To start our journey in week one we will be looking at enzyme focussed practicals and pedagogical discussions on assessment and learning intentions. Week two will focus on the skills involved in using a microscope and the pedagogy behind the development of skill progression. And finally week three will look at how context can be used in microbiology. This course is one of three secondary practical science courses from STEM learning, designed for both new and experienced teachers to enhance student learning through practical work.

Skip to 2 minutes and 8 seconds As a participant on this course you

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds will be able to: gain confidence in teaching and evaluating practical skills in biology, plan for progression and assessment linked to learning intentions in practical work, and collaborate with other teachers and educators to share ideas for teaching practical science. Join us online to develop the way that practical biology is delivered in your classroom to engage, enthuse and inspire your students.


  • Week 1

    Teaching with context in biology

    • Developing your teaching with us

      Welcome to the course. To start off, take a moment to consider what you would like to develop over the next three weeks.

    • Teaching with context

      This week we start by considering the value of adding context to practical lessons.

    • Context for biology practical

      In this activity we provide examples of microbiology practicals and ideas for contexts that could support student understanding.

    • Planning for context

      In this activity you are encouraged to think about your practical teaching based upon this weeks learning.

  • Week 2

    Learning through practical work in biology

    • Learning through practical work in biology

      In this activity we work out why it is important to have practical work in biology by providing a way to evaluate the effectiveness of practicals.

    • Enzymes practical work

      The next three steps detail three practical activities involving enzymes. As you watch the videos, make a note of what learning we can plan for using these practicals.

    • Learning objectives for practical biology

      When planning practical work it is important to have a clear idea of what we want students to achieve.

    • What does success look like?

      In this activity we work out what is success criteria and effective practicals are and share good practice.

    • Classroom task

      In this activity you’ll reflect on how you design your practical lessons.

  • Week 3

    Progression in practical biology

    • Progression in practical work

      What are the skills required for practical work for 14-16 year olds?

    • Building progression of skills

      How to break down a practical by looking at the skills involved and how to plan for progression.

    • Progression of knowledge

      Planning for progression in conceptual knowledge

    • Reviewing your professional development

      Review your professional development and plan your next steps to sustain and develop the way you plan for learning.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996 and is the leading independent CPD accreditation institution operating across industry sectors to complement the CPD policies of professional and academic bodies.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Improve your confidence in delivering and evaluating teaching for practical skills in biology for 14-16 year olds.
  • Develop effective learning outcomes for practical work in biology.
  • Reflect on the effectiveness of practical activities on every students’ learning.
  • Design progression and assessment approaches within practical work in biology.
  • Collaborate with peers, educators and mentors to share and critique ideas for teaching practical science.

Who is the course for?

The course has been designed as CPD for teachers of science subjects for 14-16 year olds. Teachers of biology, early career teachers, returning teachers, non-specialist teachers, technicians and teaching assistants will gain from the peer learning and resources available on this course.

Learn from national CPD subject leaders, the experience of other teachers and access high quality supporting resources throughout this course.

What software or tools do you need?

Access to a laboratory is recommended in order for you to evaluate approaches to practical work during this course.

Who will you learn with?

Stem Senior Facilitator and EIP
Science teacher & Senior leader
School Improvement consultant/coach
Senior Practical Adviser for A-level Biology
Working for BSA on CREST award project

I taught science for ten years and was Head of Science for three years, before becoming a subject specialist at the National STEM Learning Centre.

I am a Professional Development Leader at the National STEM Learning Centre. I have been a biology teacher for 34 years with 10 years as Head of Science and 7 years as a senior leader.

Who developed the course?

National STEM Learning Centre

The National STEM Learning Centre provides world-class professional development activities and resources to support the teaching of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

Learner reviews

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 5 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$279.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.