Inquiry Based Simulated Learning in Science

Fitzgerald, William and Connaughton, Noel (2010) Inquiry Based Simulated Learning in Science. [Conference Proceedings]


In many undergraduate science programmes, the training provided in various analytical laboratory techniques often involves a once-off laboratory session for each individual parameter. This may involve the student following the analytical procedure in a recipe-type format on samples made up or provided by technical support staff. The assessment of the student may be based on their ability to conduct the procedure and on the quality of the write-up of the method, including the presentation and discussion of results. There are a number of disadvantages with this type of training which include; the analytical method may not be successful on the day due to faulty equipment or reagents; the relevance of the parameter and its relationship to other parameters and to the sample or system under investigation is not understood; and the students do not develop a proficiency in conducting the analytical procedure. This study describes the use of laboratory-scale units simulating waste water treatment plants for training students in the analytical parameters associated with monitoring the performance of such plants. It involves re-organising laboratory classes whereby groups of students are responsible for the continuous operation of an individual simulation unit. Each student is assigned specific tasks associated with operating and monitoring the unit and these tasks are conducted several times by each student over a period of weeks. The tasks are rotated and each student is responsible for training the next student in the tasks already performed. The students log their results on to a data base and each group must collate, analyse and interpret the data. This alternative teaching method involves the co-operation and support of academic and technical staff in relation to changes in timetables, extra and ongoing utilisation of laboratories, the re-arranging and re-scheduling of modules, devising alternative student assessments, and surveying the response of students.

[thumbnail of Research Teaching Linkages Practice and Policy Conference Proceedings NAIRTL 3rd Annual Conference.pdf]
Research Teaching Linkages Practice and Policy Conference Proceedings NAIRTL 3rd Annual Conference.pdf

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