An Evaluation of the Effects of Pre-Laboratory Activities on Student Engagement in a Higher Education Computer Engineering Module.
Improving student engagement, by embracing technologies and adopting student- centred teaching strategies, is one area of educational research. Pre-laboratory activities, supported by technology, have the potential to enhance student engagement, and positively transform practical learning. The aim of this research is to evaluate the effects that pre-laboratory activities have on student engagement with laboratory learning in higher education, in the field of computer engineering. Objectives are: 1) to conduct an analysis of literature on pre-laboratory preparation, as a means to enhance student engagement, and 2) to carry out primary research to determine the effects of pre-laboratory activities on student engagement. The research methodology framework is action research based. Data collection methods employed include student questionnaires, a student focus group, and reflection journals by the lecturer-researcher. Convenience sampling is employed. This study is confined to an introductory electronics module in one former IoT: it does not consider other groups, modules, or higher education institutions. A predominant finding is that pre-laboratory activities have a positive impact on student engagement in areas such as attendance, collaboration, confidence, motivation, and learning. The study concludes that pre-laboratory activities are a worthwhile teaching and learning strategy in a practical module to improve student engagement. One limitation of the study is its small sample size. The key recommendations are to expand the research to a wider cohort and to embed the pre-laboratory activities in the laboratory process from the start, so that students view it as an integral part of their practical work.
Keywords: Action research; Computer engineering; Higher education; Pre-laboratory activities; Student engagement.
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