PhD Candidate, Monash University
Meeting our employability promise – Using undergraduate teaching labs to help land students a job.
Traditional teaching laboratories at many modern universities can often be traced back dozens if not hundreds of years. Whilst these experiences are often great at developing raw technical skills and content understanding, they tend to do little to actually prepare students for the reality of the workplace they will (hopefully!) one day join.
Transforming Laboratory Learning is a Monash University funded program wherein all chemistry teaching laboratory activities are being considered for either enhancement or direct replacement. The goal is to increase the overall employability of undergraduate students through more diverse experiences that impart a larger range of transferable skills.
This is being achieved by:
a) increasing the inquiry-based nature of the activities. This involves allowing students to make their own choices and to guide the experiment themselves. This encourages critical thinking, rapid decision making and prediction of future issues.
b) contextualising them in the daily lives of the students (i.e. real experiments on daily compounds/activities). Generally, this causes students to be more engaged and willing to participate, enhancing their overall learning.
c) contextualising them in processes actually undertaken in academia or industry. Adding in true practices undertaken by professionals equips students for those activities in later life, particularly with the development of a professional identity.
To monitor the effect of these changes, data is being collected in the form of focus groups, interviews, responses to surveys and student marks. This study is longitudinal and will take place over 4 years. Ideally, these changes will allow students to better articulate a wider range of developed skills, making them more employable in the modern world.
Abstract: Laboratory work is at the core of any chemistry curriculum but literature on the assessment of laboratory skills is scant. In this study we report the use of a peer-observation protocol underpinned by exemplar videos. Students are required to watch exemplar videos for three techniques (titrations, distillations, preparation of standard solutions) in advance of their practical session, and demonstrate the technique to their peer, while being reviewed. For two of the techniques (titrations and distillations), the demonstration was videoed on a mobile phone, which provide evidence that the student has successfully completed the technique. In order to develop digital literacy skills, students are required to upload their videos to a video sharing site for instructor review. The activity facilitated the issuing of digital badges to students who had successfully demonstrated competency. Students’ rating of their knowledge, experience, and confidence of a range of aspects associated with each technique significantly increased as a result of the activity. This work, along with student responses to questions, video access, and observations from implementation are reported in order to demonstrate a novel and useful way to incorporate peer-assessment of laboratory skills into a laboratory programme, as well as the use of digital badges as a means of incorporating and documenting transferable skills on the basis of student generated evidence.
Pub.: 24 Jan '17, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Recent years have seen increased global industry sector demand for chemical engineers, subsequent growth of Chemical Engineering (CE) degrees, producing additional qualified graduates. The Confederation of Business Industry have regularly indicated that employers are dissatisfied with skills sets offered by graduates; a 2004 World Chemical Engineering Council (WCEC) survey of experienced and newly employed chemical engineers’ perceptions of their own work skills indicated highest importance for general transferrable skills, with technical knowledge ranked considerably lower. A decade later, we investigate whether chemical engineers, both employed and in education, have similar skills perceptions, by surveying CE undergraduates in penultimate and final years of study, and CE alumni employed in CE roles; all from the University of Strathclyde. Again, transferrable skills were perceived as most important to respondents; as undergraduates gained industrial experience, a shift in perceived relative importance of technical knowledge occurred, again similar to the WCEC survey, otherwise, alumni and students had similar opinions regarding perceived degree of learning of various skills. Alumni were more critical of the quality of education with regards to management and transferrable skills, while female participants perceived business skills as undertaught, feeling considerably overexposed to the potential of research compared to male colleagues. Focus groups showed that male undergraduates valued ‘technical knowledge’ and ‘communicating professionally’; by contrast, female graduates highlighted ‘initiative’ and ‘business skills’. Consequently, training sessions were developed, focussing on transferable skills identified as important by all groups, to be delivered during academic year inductions, aligning skills to year curricula.
Pub.: 25 Jul '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Recent data suggests that of the UK students graduating with a degree in chemistry in 2015, only 18.9% continued to employment as ‘Science Professionals’. While this shows the wide range of employment that is available for chemistry graduates, it also highlights the need for them to have relevant transferable skills, rather than just the well-developed, subject-specific knowledge that they would be expected to possess. In 2010 Hanson and Overton published a study on the degree skills valued by UK graduates who had found employment and then reflected on the most useful aspects of the degree course. The new investigation reported here expands on this previous work by evaluating the perceived value of these skills by chemistry undergraduate students (years 1, 2, 3) along with their planned occupation after graduation. The results of the skills questionnaire are discussed, along with a survey of the main skills that the students wished to gain by participating in a new extra-curricular module specifically designed to enhance career skills, and the activities designed to develop those skills.
Pub.: 01 Mar '17, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Science and engineering educators and employers agree that students should graduate from college with expertise in their major subject area as well as the skills and competencies necessary for productive participation in diverse work environments. These competencies include problem-solving, communication, leadership, and collaboration, among others. Using a pseudo-experimental design, and employing a variety of data from exam scores, course evaluations, and student assessment of learning gains (SALG) surveys of key competencies, we compared the development of both chemistry content knowledge and transferable or generic skills among students enrolled in two types of large classes: a lecture-based format versus an interactive, constructive, cooperative learning (flipped classroom) format. Controlling for instructor, as well as laboratory and recitation content, students enrolled in the cooperative learning format reported higher learning gains than the control group in essential transferable skills and competency areas at the end of the term, and more growth in these areas over the course of the term. As a result of their work in the class, the two groups of students reported the most significant differences in their gains in the following areas: “interacting productively to solve problems with a diverse group of classmates,” “behaving as an effective leader,” “behaving as an effective teammate,” and “comfort level working with complex ideas.” Our findings clearly show that cooperative learning course designs allow students to practice and develop the transferable skills valued by employers.
Pub.: 10 Feb '17, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Many biochemistry laboratory courses expose students to laboratory techniques through pre-determined experiments in which students follow stepwise protocols provided by the instructor. This approach fails to provide students with sufficient opportunities to practice experimental design and critical thinking. Ten inquiry modules were created for a one-semester undergraduate biochemistry laboratory course; these are freely available on the project website. A slightly modified version of the Experimental Design Ability Test (EDAT) was used to assess the impact of inquiry-based learning on student experimental design ability in four experimental (inquiry) and four control (cookbook) sections. EDAT is a published tool that has been validated for use in undergraduate populations. The results, measured by pre- and post-tests, showed a significant positive impact on the experimental design ability of students in sections that employed the inquiry approach, when compared to those in control sections that employed the cookbook approach. A follow-up conversation with students in a sequel course suggested that the inquiry-based approach also benefited students by promoting self-directed learning.
Pub.: 23 Aug '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Publication date: Available online 25 February 2015 Source:Educational Research Review Author(s): Margus Pedaste , Mario Mäeots , Leo A. Siiman , Ton de Jong , Siswa A.N. van Riesen , Ellen T. Kamp , Constantinos C. Manoli , Zacharias C. Zacharia , Eleftheria Tsourlidaki Inquiry-based learning is gaining popularity in science curricula, international research and development projects as well as teaching. One of the underlying reasons is that its success can be significantly improved due to the recent technical developments that allow the inquiry process to be supported by electronic learning environments. Inquiry-based learning is often organized into inquiry phases that together form an inquiry cycle. However, different variations on what is called the inquiry cycle can be found throughout the literature. The current article focuses on identifying and summarizing the core features of inquiry-based learning by means of a systematic literature review and develops a synthesized inquiry cycle that combines the strengths of existing inquiry-based learning frameworks. The review was conducted using the EBSCO host Library; a total of 32 articles describing inquiry phases or whole inquiry cycles were selected based on specific search criteria. An analysis of the articles resulted in the identification of five distinct general inquiry phases: Orientation, Conceptualization, Investigation, Conclusion, and Discussion. Some of these phases are divided into sub-phases. In particular, the Conceptualization phase is divided into two (alternative) sub-phases, Questioning and Hypothesis Generation; the Investigation phase is divided into three sub-phases, Exploration or Experimentation leading to Data Interpretation; and the Discussion phase is divided into two sub-phases, Reflection and Communication. No framework bringing together all of these phases and sub-phases was found in the literature. Thus, a synthesized framework was developed to describe an inquiry cycle in which all of these phases and sub-phases would be present. In this framework, inquiry-based learning begins with Orientation and flows through Conceptualization to Investigation, where several cycles are possible. Inquiry-based learning usually ends with the Conclusion phase. The Discussion phase (which includes Communication and Reflection) is potentially present at every point during inquiry-based learning and connects to all the other phases, because it can occur at any time during (discussion in-action) or after inquiry-based learning when looking back (discussion on-action).
Pub.: 27 Feb '15, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Curricular reform efforts depend on our ability to determine how courses are taught and how instructional practices affect student outcomes. In this study, we developed a 30-question survey on inquiry-based learning and assessment in undergraduate laboratory courses that was administered to 878 students in 54 courses (41 introductory level and 13 upper level) from 20 institutions (four community colleges, 11 liberal arts colleges, and five universities, of which four were minority-serving institutions). On the basis of an exploratory factor analysis, we defined five constructs: metacognition, feedback and assessment, scientific synthesis, science process skills, and instructor-directed teaching. Using our refined survey of 24 items, we compared student and faculty perceptions of instructional practices both across courses and across instructors. In general, faculty and student perceptions were not significantly related. Although mean perceptions were often similar, faculty perceptions were more variable than those of students, suggesting that faculty may have more nuanced views than students. In addition, student perceptions of some instructional practices were influenced by their previous experience in laboratory courses and their self-efficacy. As student outcomes, such as learning gains, are ultimately most important, future research should examine the degree to which faculty and student perceptions of instructional practices predict student outcomes in different contexts.
Pub.: 05 Nov '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Authors: Hazel Marian ; Claire Jackson Article URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03004430.2016.1237563?ai=z4&mi=3fqos0&af=R Citation: Early Child Development and Care Publication Date: 2016-10-19T11:57:32Z Journal: Early Child Development and Care
Pub.: 19 Oct '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Abstract Current research indicates that inquiry-based learning should be guided in order to achieve optimal learning outcomes. The need for guidance is even greater when simulations are used because of their high information content and the difficulty of extracting information from them. Previous research on guidance for learning with simulations has concentrated on guidance provided by the simulation. Little research has been done on the role of the teacher in guiding learners with inquiry-based activities using simulations. This descriptive study focuses on guidance provided during small group investigations; pre-service teachers (n = 8) guided third and fifth graders using a particular simulation. Data was collected using screen capture videos. The data was analyzed using a combination of theory- and data-driven analysis. Forms of guidance provided by the simulation and by the teachers were divided into the same categories. The distribution of the guidance between the teacher and the simulation was also analyzed. The categories for forms of guidance provided by simulations proved to be applicable to guidance provided by the teachers as well. Teachers offered more various forms of guidance than the simulation. The teachers adapted their guidance and used different patterns to complement the guidance provided by the simulation. The results of the study show that guidance provided by teachers and simulations have different affordances, and both should be present in the classroom for optimal support of learning. This has implications for both teaching with simulations and development of new simulations.AbstractCurrent research indicates that inquiry-based learning should be guided in order to achieve optimal learning outcomes. The need for guidance is even greater when simulations are used because of their high information content and the difficulty of extracting information from them. Previous research on guidance for learning with simulations has concentrated on guidance provided by the simulation. Little research has been done on the role of the teacher in guiding learners with inquiry-based activities using simulations. This descriptive study focuses on guidance provided during small group investigations; pre-service teachers (n = 8) guided third and fifth graders using a particular simulation. Data was collected using screen capture videos. The data was analyzed using a combination of theory- and data-driven analysis. Forms of guidance provided by the simulation and by the teachers were divided into the same categories. The distribution of the guidance between the teacher and the simulation was also analyzed. The categories for forms of guidance provided by simulations proved to be applicable to guidance provided by the teachers as well. Teachers offered more various forms of guidance than the simulation. The teachers adapted their guidance and used different patterns to complement the guidance provided by the simulation. The results of the study show that guidance provided by teachers and simulations have different affordances, and both should be present in the classroom for optimal support of learning. This has implications for both teaching with simulations and development of new simulations.n
Pub.: 01 Dec '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Despite advances to move anatomy education away from its didactic history, there is a continued need for students to contextualize their studies to make learning more meaningful. This article investigates authentic learning in the context of an inquiry-based approach to learning human gross anatomy. Utilizing a case-study design with three groups of students (n = 18) and their facilitators (n = 3), methods of classroom observations, interviews, and artifact collection were utilized to investigate students' experiences of learning through an inquiry project. Qualitative data analysis through open and selective coding produced common meaningful themes of group and student experiences. Overall results demonstrate how the project served as a unique learning experience where learners engaged in the opportunity to make sense of anatomy in context of their interests and wider interdisciplinary considerations through collaborative, group-based investigation. Results were further considered in context of theoretical frameworks of inquiry-based and authentic learning. Results from this study demonstrate how students can engage anatomical understandings to inquire and apply disciplinary considerations to their personal lives and the world around them. Anat Sci Educ. © 2017 American Association of Anatomists.
Pub.: 04 Apr '17, Pinned: 16 Aug '17