Core Module Information
Module title: Advances in Animal Behaviour

SCQF level: 10:
SCQF credit value: 20.00
ECTS credit value: 10

Module code: ENV10109
Module leader: Jason Gilchrist
School School of Applied Sciences
Subject area group: Animal and Plant Science

SCQF Level 7 or 8 credits awarded for the study of animal behaviour from an evolutionary perspective.

Description of module content:

In this module you will learn about how ecological and evolutionary factors influence animal behaviour. You will consider a variety of species including invertebrates and vertebrates. We will discuss not only well-established scientific findings but also emerging evidence and current areas of controversy, including, social behaviour and inclusive fitness, reproductive strategies, physiology, conservation applications, the scientific method as applied to the study of animals including experimental and observational studies in both captive and natural environments. We will consider the scientific method, including data collection and analysis of behavioural data. Recommended reading will include not only chapters from the recommended scientific textbooks but also a variety of peer-reviewed scientific articles from journals such as Animal Behaviour, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Behavioural Ecology, Nature, Science and others. While classic studies will be included, there will be an emphasis on recent research.

Learning Outcomes for module:

LO1: Critically evaluate published studies of both captive and free-ranging animals.
LO2: Appraise the evidence for various explanations of animal behaviour.
LO3: Derive adaptive explanations for behaviours exhibited by animals.
LO4: Prioritise the scientific principle of parsimony when interpreting animal behaviour.

Full Details of Teaching and Assessment
2020/1, Trimester 1, FACE-TO-FACE,
Occurrence: 001
Primary mode of delivery: FACE-TO-FACE
Location of delivery: SIGHTHILL
Member of staff responsible for delivering module: Jason Gilchrist
Module Organiser:

Learning, Teaching and Assessment (LTA) Approach:
A combination of interactive lectures, group discussion sessions and assessments will be used to promote the growth of knowledge and the development of critical thinking skills. An underlying theme will be the importance of the scientific method and research design in the evaluation of evidence relating to animal behaviour and cognition. Students will be encouraged to actively engage with the learning material, asking questions and thinking deeply about standards of evidence and how these relate to the validity of various claims that have been made about the abilities of animals. Group discussions during tutorial sessions will allow students to explore many of the issues arising from current areas of scientific controversy. Lectures will include interactive windows to encourage critical thinking, thus allowing LOs 1, 2, 3 and 4 to be addressed in both lecture and tutorial sessions.

Formative Assessment:
In week 6 there will be a tutorial dedicated to a formative assessment that will provide guidance and feedback and help the students to work towards the critical review summative assessment. During the formative assessment, students will be asked to evaluate a published study, with particular attention to the methodology and interpretation of results. Students will peer review each other’s work, and the lecturer will also offer feedback, this experience will equip the students with the skills they need to carry out the summative assessment. In week 10 there will be a second formative assessment that will help the students to prepare for the final summative assessment. Students will prepare mock answers to an exam question and these will be reviewed by peers and the lecturer so that all students receive feedback.

Summative Assessment:
The formative assessments mentioned above will support students in their preparation for the summative assessments. The coursework component of summative assessment is a critical review of the scientific literature relating to a “hot topic” in animal behaviour and cognition. Students will be given a choice of 4 different topics, one of which must be chosen as the focus of their review. The topics that are offered are reviewed by staff each year to ensure that they remain current with respect to any emerging literature on animal behaviour and cognition. The final assessment will be a three-hour supervised exam so that students have sufficient time to compose their answers and arguments rather than merely regurgitating information in the rapid fashion that might be encouraged by a more restricted time window. The exam will encourage the students to engage with the model in breadth rather than focussing on a specific topic.

Student Activity (Notional Equivalent Study Hours (NESH))
Mode of activityLearning & Teaching ActivityNESH (Study Hours)
Face To Face Lecture 30
Face To Face Groupwork (Scheduled) 6
Face To Face Centrally Time Tabled Examination 3
Independent Learning Guided independent study 161
Total Study Hours200
Expected Total Study Hours for Module200

Type of Assessment Weighting % LOs covered Week due Length in Hours/Words
Report 40 1 & 2 8 , WORDS= 1200
Centrally Time Tabled Examination 60 3 & 4 14/15 HOURS= 3
Component 1 subtotal: 40
Component 2 subtotal: 60
Module subtotal: 100

Indicative References and Reading List - URL:
ENV10109 Advances in Animal Behaviour