68019 - Elements of General Biology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Oceans Life on land

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will: (a) have basic knowledges allowing the use of specific terminology and the understanding of a scientific text of medium complexity; basic knowledges in general biology (structure and functions of the pro- and eukaryotic cell, cellular respiration and photosyntesis, principles of genetics, etc) and of the anatomy/physiology of human systems and apparatuses); be able to analyse and critically discuss the fundamental aspects of human health and well-being (specific parasites of scholastic interest, correct nutrition, good life practices for prevention, etc); is able to suggest how to build didactic units on the different topics for the specific educational level.

Course contents

Macromolecules: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. The prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Autotrophic and heterotrophic metabolism. The three domains of life.

The eukaryotic cell. Biological membranes: structure and functions; exo- and endocytosis.

Structure and functions of the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi apparatus. The lysosomes. The mitochondria. Cellular respiration and photosyntesis. The peroxisomes.

The cytoskeleton: microfilaments, microtubules and intermediate filaments. Cellular communication.

The nucleus. Duplication and transcription. Translation: genetic code and protein synthesis.

Cell division: mitosis and meiosis. The asexual and sexual reproduction.

Heredity: genes, alleles, characters, genotype and phenotype. Mendel’s 1st and 2nd law. Incomplete dominance and co-dominance. Mendel’s 3rd law and genetic association.

Genic, chromosomal and genomic mutations.

Lamarck; Darwin; the theory of Evolution. Diversity: major animal phyla (sponges, cnidarians, echinoderms, chordates, flatworms, nematodes, arthropods, annelids, molluscs). Major plant divisions (mosses, ferns, gymnosperms, flowering plants). Biodiversity of Fungi.

Other topics of specific interest will be defined with students.

Interdisciplinary laboratories of nature Sciences

(only for students who started their graduate course in/after A. Y. 2020/2021)


Given the 360° education required for future primary school teachers, the interdisciplinary Laboratories of nature Sciences were planned to be both interdisciplinary, thus involving the four scientific disciplines of the spring term of the third course year, and multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary as well: maximum effort will be put into highlighting links with non-scientific knowledge, in order to clarify that there is no dichotomy between sciences and humanities.

The main goals of this rearrangement of the scientific education of teachers are to:

• stimulate curiosity towards scientific themes;

• highlight the ethic and social impact of science and technology;

• communicate the importance of delivering a scientific education starting from the lowest school levels;

• provide conceptual and practical tools mandatory to plan and carry out science-based activities with pupils.

Science labs focused on single disciplines are activated as well, after being improved following aforementioned goals and rationales.

The interdisciplinary laboratory deals with a topic underpinning all the scientific disciplines involved in the master degree with the aim of showing that the same issue can be investigated under different frameworks, each related to a different discipline, and how we can obtain “a big picture” of a given issue by integrating all the different aspects. The title of the interdisciplinary laboratory is “Not just HtwoO: The unexpected features of water”. The scheduling will be communicated before the beginning of the course.

Students will be divided into small work teams and will carry out simple experiments. The lab teacher will conduct also the discussion of results. Suitable experiments have been laid down so that they can be easily reproduced at pre-primary and primary schools.

The laboratory provides 1 CFU, meaning 8 presence hours and 17 homework hours. In fact, laboratories involve not only the active participation of students but also a “final product”. After the completion of the laboratory experiences, where some disciplinary aspects are investigated and some strategies for stimulating scientific knowledge are proposed, the planning of a didactic activity is requested (which might be useful during school trainings as well). Recall the activity type and the teaching and learning strategy that have been adopted, taking part in these laboratories requires a previous participation into modules 1 and 2 of safety education on learning places, which is delivered remotely.

Students will be graded by lab teachers with -1, 0, or +1 (on a 30 scale). The grade obtained in the interdisciplinary Laboratory of nature Sciences will add to the final score of the integrated Chemistry and Ecology course. These grades will be available up to the completion of the grading procedure. You cannot register for the exam of Elements of Chemistry and Ecology unless you have attended the transversal Laboratory of nature Sciences.


- Morris, J. R., Hartl, D. L., Knoll, A. H., Lue, R. A., Michael, M. (2021), Biologia. Come funziona la vita. Bologna: Zanichelli.

- Santovito, G. (2015), Insegnare la biologia ai bambini. Dalla scuola dell'infanzia al primo ciclo d'istruzione. Roma: Carocci.

- Padoa-Schioppa, E. (2018), Metodi e strumenti per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento della biologia. Napoli: EdiSES.

Teaching methods

The course will be developed through frontal lessons and the discussion / design of didactic units dealing with the main topics addressed in the course.

Assessment methods

The assessment will take place through the presentation of a written didactic unit chosen by the student. The didactic unit has to be uploaded at https://app.compilatio.net/v5/document-submission/QI4-1D or sent by e-mail at depositare@compilatio.app, using “qi41d” as object and attaching the didactic unit file (formats: txt, doc, docx, odt, pdf, ppt, pptx, rtf), 10 days before the assessment day. The oral exam will involve specific questions on the topics dealt with in the didactic unit (even if not directly addressed during the course) as well as during classes.

Final score based on a 30 scale.

The students can attend the exam at each exam session.

ERASMUS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: written product replacing laboratories

The final exam, as well as the course contests, are the same for Erasmus students and non-Erasmus students. Due to several reasons, however, Erasmus International Students are not requested to take part to any laboratory in order to take the Elements of Biology exam. Conversely, those Erasmus International Students who inserted Elements of Chemistry and Ecology and/or Elements of Physics and Teaching Physics in their study plan will hand in a written series of experimental classes focusing on water, which will replace the laboratories.

The series of experimental classes will target pre-primary or primary school and will have the properties and peculiarities of water as an aim, under different point of view. The proposed activities will be thoroughly described in terms of materials, methods, timing, and so on; we also ask to state learning goals clearly. A written text must be handed in at least 10 days before the examination day and will be assessed by Elements of Chemistry and Ecology and Elements of Physics and Teaching Physics colleagues.

The assessment will affect examination’s assessment, by adding or subtracting a point (or by leaving it unaffected): this will be carried out both for Elements of Chemistry and Ecology and Elements of Physics and Teaching Physics, if the Erasmus International Students participates to both courses; this will be carried out for a single course, if the Erasmus International Student participates to a single course. In case the written text is not handed in, a point will be substracted by the relevant exam grade.

Teaching tools

Slideshow presentations.

Office hours

See the website of Federico Plazzi