Engaging learning and addressing over-assessment in the Science laboratory: solving a pervasive problem.
Keywords:Assessment, undergraduate, incremental marking, feedback, self-assessment, learning experience, biochemistry, laboratory, practical, student centred learning.
This small-scale, mixed-method research study aimed to improve the learning experience
for students in laboratory practical sessions. A sub-group of undergraduate Science
students performed the Biochemistry practical component using a range of innovative
integrated approaches over one semester, which included a reduction in the number of
laboratory reports performed and the introduction of a suite of in-class formative
assessments. Group-work and self-assessment activities were combined with a distinctive
incremental grading system designed to encourage feedback uptake. The outcomes of the
intervention were assessed using data collected by two mixed-method approaches in an
ethically approved manner: an online questionnaire and comparative focus groups.
Quantitative analysis of grades obtained from laboratory reports over the semester
demonstrated improvement in quality via uptake of feedback. Qualitative data obtained
from the questionnaire/focus groups was thematically analysed and triangulated. Results
showed the students engaged with, and implemented feedback, developed self-assessment
reflections on their work prior to submission and improved the quality of their laboratory
reports and theoretical understanding throughout this intervention. This study recommends
implementing the feedback approach, incremental marking system and the self-assessment
forms in teaching curricula. Together, they encourage the development of lifelong skills,
such as self-reflection and an always-improving attitude in students.
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