Education & Teaching

Excellence in physiology teaching and the development of a positive teaching environment are priorities of The Physiological Society. The Education & Teaching Theme promotes innovative physiology teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels through the sharing of best practice. Teaching fellows and lecturers are eligible for full membership and can benefit from the support of this Theme.

The Theme hosts regular workshops and symposia to facilitate discussion and highlight areas of concern. This feeds back to our Committees and has a key influence on Society policy and future activities.

Please note: Our Education & Teaching Theme covers all 23 specialities. Download our Specialities Matrix here.

Once you have developed an interest in trying to understand how best our students learn it becomes a very compelling intellectual challenge in its own right. It helps that in the E&T area we benefit from the support of a wide variety of like-minded colleagues as well as The Society and all its resources which has developed into a quite powerful learning community.

Nick Freestone, Education & Teaching Theme Lead

Education and Teaching is an exciting field of academic research, especially for a specific discipline such as physiology, which is often taught within the broader discipline of Biomedical Sciences. Ever increasing numbers of undergraduate students present us with significant challenges, such as running engaging practical classes for large cohorts, producing meaningful assessments and delivering helpful feedback in a timely manner. The Education and Teaching theme of The Physiological Society provides a forum for discussing current issues and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and enables sharing of best practice in teaching informed by pedagogic research.

Sheila Amici-Dargan, Education & Teaching Theme Lead

The Education & Teaching Theme has something for everyone – whether they’re new to teaching or aiming to enhance what they do as an educator. Physiology is flourishing as a discipline because of the commitment, creativity and community of its teachers. Excellent teaching is at the core of physiology education. I’m constantly learning from colleagues in The Society and use that to improve what I do for my students.

Derek Scott, Education & Teaching Theme Lead

Theme Leads

Sheila Amici-Dargan, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University

I graduated with a BSc hons in Cell Biology from the University of East Anglia in 1998 and completed a PhD in Biophysics at UEA in 2001. In 2002 I moved to the USA to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Irvine. On returning to the UK, I took up a temporary post at the Biochemical Society as a Professional and Education Projects Manager. In 2004 I joined the University of Bristol. In 2009 I was appointed to a University Lectureship in Physiology at Cardiff University and I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2013.

I wanted to be an Education and Teaching Theme Lead to help The Physiological Society organise events and workshops to promote the sharing of best practice in teaching, learning and educational research.

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Nicholas Freestone, Associate Professor, Kingston University

I am an Associate Professor at Kingston University and have long had an interest in the pedagogical aspects of my academic practice. I took tentative steps into this world by joining with like-minded colleagues in various friendly and collaborative groupings. One of these was the Education and Teaching Theme group of The Physiological Society. I tangibly benefit from this group in terms of improving my practice, finding support networks, and having exposure to current best practice. As such, I feel quite strongly that this group should seek wherever possible to expand its hugely supportive influence. I decided to put myself forward to become an Education and Teaching Theme Lead (not least so that colleagues from the post-1992 sector felt that they too were represented by the prestigious learned society that is The Physiological Society).

Since becoming a Theme Lead I have gained enormously from exposure to the best practices in the learning and teaching milieu in the UK and further afield. I have striven to raise the profile of learning and teaching as a pathway for career progression and promotion. The best thing about being a Theme Lead is the help and support one can provide to others in their day to day practice. I enjoy serving as a guide in the often bewildering and foreign world of pedagogy for those interested in examining more closely the learning and teaching parts of their academic lives.


Derek Scott, Senior Lecturer, University of Aberdeen

I am a teaching-focused Senior Lecturer in Integrative Physiology & Pharmacology at the University of Aberdeen.

My background is in epithelial and membrane transport physiology, but I was recruited early in my career to enhance various aspects of biomedical teaching at Aberdeen. I was encouraged to follow a teaching-focused career at my institution, as they viewed physiology education as being just as important as research. They also supported me in trying to disseminate what I was doing through The Physiological Society. I was lucky enough to have excellent mentors in teaching such as Professor Mary Cotter (inaugural winner of the Otto Hutter Prize) and Professor Gordon McEwan.

I wanted to become a Theme Lead to help colleagues share the excellent things they are doing to improve physiology teaching and to help them in their career progression. I also want to demonstrate how The Society’s Members are improving the standard of physiological education globally.

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E&T symposia and workshops

The Education and Teaching Theme supports a number of informal workshops and symposia throughout the year. The aim of these events is to promote the sharing of best practice in all aspects of teaching, learning and assessment: from laboratory and project-based work, to lectures and small group tutorials. Feedback from the workshops to The Society’s Committees is a key factor in influencing Society policy and identifying future activities and initiatives.


Novel approaches to physiology practical teaching*
Physiology 2019 (Aberdeen)
10.00 – 11.30, Monday 8 July
Organiser: Derek Scott, University of Aberdeen, UK
*Featuring an international range of teachers

Previous workshops

Practical innovations in life science education
This workshop provided delegates with an opportunity to discuss new and existing methods in teaching physiology. There also was a session on innovative approaches to outreach.

Employability, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in the Life Sciences
This workshop was organised by Dr Graham Christie (Life and Biomedical Sciences education, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee) and Dr Derek Scott (Institute of Education in Medical and Dental Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Aberdeen).

Achieving Teaching Excellence in the Biosciences co-sponsored by the British Pharmacological Society
The workshop provided real-life examples of engaging, prize-winning teaching in different scenarios; delegates then had an opportunity to reflect on and discuss the teaching, to see if any of the techniques demonstrated could be useful to them in their own setting.

Promoting and sharing excellence in Higher Education teaching
This workshop was held on January 15 2016 at The Society’s offices.

Undergraduate physiology practicals in a digital age
With decreasing resource, there has been a gradual decline in the practical content of physiology programmes, with traditional laboratory sessions either being abolished or replaced with virtual laboratories. Are traditional practicals still fit for purpose? Should we be replacing them with virtual practicals or simulations, or adopting a blended learning approach, where virtual laboratories, undertaken either beforehand or afterwards, supplement and enhance the learning from a traditional laboratory practical? This symposium will showcase examples of good practice of these different approaches from multiple disciplines across the Life Sciences. Delegates had the opportunity to discuss, with colleagues, the pros and cons of individual approaches and their benefits (or otherwise) to student education and learning experiences.


Recognising Teachers In The Life Sciences

This booklet is one strand of a collaboration between The Physiological Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) and the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS) that aims to raise the status and valuation of teaching in careers in Higher Education. It features 32 bioscientists and medical scientists whose promotion at one or more stages of their academic career has been achieved largely, sometimes exclusively, through recognition of their achievements in teaching / educational leadership. All the contributors share a passion for teaching, for supporting students and for developing educational initiatives – as their biographies clearly demonstrate.

Theme Lead Spotlight

Check out Derek Scott’s photos from Physiology Friday 2018 in Aberdeen…

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