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Enhancing learning in lab-based science education through re-designing assessment practices

6th April 2017

Click here to view the Seminar Report

Lab-based education is often seen as an essential requirement of the third level science curriculum and central to students acquiring proper understanding of the scientific method. Critical questions have been raised about the value of lab-based education:
  • Do practicals really deepen conceptual understanding, and how do we know?
  • What is the relationship between practical skills and conceptual understanding, and how do we assess this?
  • How does the reliance on traditional teaching and assessment methods enhance student engagement and deepen conceptual understanding?
  • Does it prepare students for postgraduate study or industry, and how do we know?
There appears to be a lack of clarity as to the purpose of assessment in lab-based science education. Even the reliance on assessment of learning is seen as having a weak relationship with conceptual development and supporting more long-term graduate attributes. This seminar will explore the following questions:
  • What forms of assessment actually take place in practical work – can we clarify how assessment for and as learning can contribute to desired learning outcomes for science education?
  • Can assessment practices enhance learning and cultivate long-term professional dispositions and skills?
  • How might the curriculum be redesigned to enable more powerful learning through creative assessment?
  • How can technologies enhance assessment practices?
Hofstein, A. & Lunetta, V. N. (2004) The Laboratory in Science Education: Foundations for the twenty-first century. Science Education, 88, 28-54

Learning Outcomes

Participants will have the opportunity to:
  1. Acquire knowledge of the scholarship of lab-based education and the key issues this raises
  2. Become familiar with current research looking at technology enhanced assessment methods to support student learning
  3. Discuss the role that assessment for and as learning can play in enhancing conceptual development
  4. Reflect on their current assessment practices and generate possible alternative actions

Target Audience

Heads of Discipline, Programme Directors, Vice Deans of Teaching & Learning, Lecturers, Teaching Assistants, Senior Technical Officers, Laboratory Demonstrators


Seminar.The seminar will be in three parts:
  • Dr Michael Seery will outline the key issues identified in debates about lab based education and key questions this raises for assessment
  • The TEAM project will share details of their project and key learning on technology enhanced assessment to date
  • Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on the nature of assessment in relation to their own lab based teaching and identify areas where student engagement can be enhanced through re-design of assessment activities