"Where is the protocol?” Independent thinking increases student engagement in laboratory work: a case study

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Laboratory work plays a central role in the training of students in the process of science. In a typical laboratory class students are presented with a robust protocol and perform experiments where the results are predetermined. This expository style of teaching (as defined by Domin 1999) is commonly used in many institutions (including our own). Activities are designed so that large numbers of students can carry out the same experiment at low cost in a two to three hour time frame. These laboratories are often viewed as “recipe following” or “cookbook” exercises with low cognitive demands (Tobin 1987). The students are not required to plan the investigation and so often attend sessions with little planning and preparation. During the laboratory the focus is on obtaining the “right result”. Assessment of lab work is usually via the submission of a report where primacy is given to the fundamental science the exercise was designed to explore as opposed to how to design and execute experiments. The benefits of enquiry and problem based laboratory sessions in teaching the scientific process has been widely discussed (Waldrop 2015) and this case study presents an approach to introducing this type of delivery into a BSc Biomedical Sciences programme.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransforming assessment in higher education
EditorsSam Elkington, Carol Evans
Place of PublicationYork
PublisherHigher Education Academy
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2017
EventTransforming Assessment in Higher Education Symposium: Enhancing student engagement through assessment - Higher Education Academy, York, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 May 201724 May 2017

Publication series

NameA case study series
PublisherHigher Education Academy


ConferenceTransforming Assessment in Higher Education Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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