Heather Allison: Helping students take control of their laboratory learning


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Heather Allison: Helping students take control of their laboratory learning. Slides from the University of Liverpool Learning and Teaching Conference 2009.

Building on recent work with engaging students in “independent” projects, designed to give students enthusiasm and a sense of purpose for working in teaching laboratories. This session will explore a particular way of providing structure for “independent” lab projects to give active and careful guidance to inexperienced students working in a laboratory environment, whilst ensuring their safety and making them feel in control of what they are doing.

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Heather Allison: Helping students take control of their laboratory learning

  1. 1. Helping students take control of their laboratory learning<br />Dr. H.E. AllisonSchool of Biological Sciences<br />
  2. 2. Background<br /><ul><li>School separated practical and lecture-based teaching
  3. 3. Students, in the main, disliked practical classes
  4. 4. Most students report highlight of their honours year is their project
  5. 5. Why the discrepancy?
  6. 6. Enrolled in the PGC TL HE</li></li></ul><li>What students liked and disliked<br />Liked<br />Practicals<br />Working with staff & demonstrators<br />Disliked<br />Practicals<br />Doing “pointless experiments” without understanding “why” or sometimes even how they work<br />Long & boring<br />Poor use of time<br />Honours Project<br />Working on their own project (ownership)<br />Freedom to design experiments<br />The ability to carry a project from one stage to the next<br />Interacting with staff & post-graduates/ post-docs<br />Honours Project<br />Unsure of themselves at the start of the project<br />
  7. 7. Design an All-Encompassing Microbiological Practical<br /><ul><li>Not supported by lecture material – freestanding
  8. 8. 6wk module, running 1 full day/wk
  9. 9. Required for microbiology students, open to anyone
  10. 10. Should help prepare future honours students to safely work on 3rd year projects
  11. 11. Try to combine “good” elements of honours project in a classroom setting
  12. 12. Provide students with a feeling of ownership and purpose
  13. 13. Encompass best teaching and learning practices as far as possible</li></li></ul><li>Design: <br />Ensure that students are capable of:<br /><ul><li>Handling basic laboratory equipment
  14. 14. Aseptic technique
  15. 15. Handling microorganisms
  16. 16. Understanding laboratory hazards and risk assessment</li></li></ul><li>Design: <br />Provide a platform for students to run their own projects:<br /><ul><li>Limited experience
  17. 17. Large demand on supervisory capabilities
  18. 18. Student must receive lots of detailed instruction and guidance, but still retain the “feeling of independence”</li></li></ul><li>Enhance Experience<br />
  19. 19.
  20. 20.
  21. 21.
  22. 22.
  23. 23. New Situations<br /><ul><li>Designed in first year to accommodate 38 students
  24. 24. Last year, 67 students were enrolled in the module
  25. 25. Upcoming year may bring an additional 50 students
  26. 26. Staff have limited time to cope with this module</li></ul>Better organisation<br />
  27. 27. Supervision <br />If all students are doing the same thing, hazards are:<br /><ul><li>Easy to identify
  28. 28. Easier to prevent
  29. 29. Potential timescale</li></ul>Each group of students is potentially doing something different:<br /><ul><li>Students can be guided towards certain goals
  30. 30. Students can be exposed to COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health)</li></li></ul><li>Student Experience <br />Greatest complaints are :<br /><ul><li>Feeling “lost and confused” about projects in the first 1-3 weeks
  31. 31. Feeling like there isn’t enough time
  32. 32. Not being able to spend enough time on the project
  33. 33. Wanting to work in the lab extra days without being able to do so</li></ul>Get to know the academic staff very well:<br />+20 summer studentships<br />
  34. 34. Requires Good Postgraduate Demonstrator Training<br /><ul><li>Good for the post-gradaute demonstrator
  35. 35. Scientific process
  36. 36. Thinking on your feet
  37. 37. Academic staff present for immediate guidance
  38. 38. Regular weekly meetings
  39. 39. Long term goals
  40. 40. Short term goals
  41. 41. Problem areas
  42. 42. Safety concerns
  43. 43. Strategies for dealing with problems
  44. 44. Scientific
  45. 45. Interpersonal</li></li></ul><li>Demonstrator Notebooks<br /><ul><li>Each demonstrator write up “goals” for 2-3 research groups (Thursday afternoon)
  46. 46. E-mail electronic version to me (Friday afternoon)
  47. 47. I highlight specific “challenges”
  48. 48. We meet on the Monday before Thursday practical
  49. 49. Technical support staff highlight difficulties
  50. 50. Problems are identified, discussed and strategies put into place
  51. 51. Technical support are consulted on and informed of appropriate strategies</li></li></ul><li>Special Thanks<br /><ul><li>Fellow academic staff in School of Biological Sciences
  52. 52. Postgraduate demonstrators
  53. 53. Technical support staff associated with teaching labs</li></ul>With special thanks to and in Memory of Joyce Regan<br />