Preparing Students for Science Practical Sessions: Engagingwith Digital Resources to Enrich the Learning Experience

Bree, Ronan T. (2017) Preparing Students for Science Practical Sessions: Engagingwith Digital Resources to Enrich the Learning Experience. AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 9 (3).


A key element in any science based module is its practical component. Here, students can acquire anddevelop hands-on skills in a powerful learning environment. In addition, during these sessions, theyengage with group work, assessment including self-assessment, feedback, academic writing, problemsolving and metacognitive skills.Whilst many educators have focused on the design/format of their practical session and on theaccompanying assessment strategies employed, only recently has the preparation for practicals cometo the fore. Traditionally, students are required to read pre-prepared text in a paper-based laboratorymanual before entering the session. The text provides background to the principle/theory/techniquebeing examined. However, in the majority of cases, this text is not read leading to a lengthy compulsorypre-practical talk being required, reducing practical learning time.Pre-lecture resources were previously shown to benefit learners by reducing cognitive load. In a studyby Seery and Donnelly (2012), students engaged with introductory eResources and quizzes beforelectures with results highlighting the approach made it difficult to determine which students had, or didnot have, prior knowledge of the particular subject area. In the innovation described in this paper, thepre-lecture concept was transferred to the practical environment. A customised pre-practical video wasrecorded, edited and circulated to students prior to a laboratory session. Students were advised to viewthe video and complete a smartphone app-based quiz on the video content, before their practicalsession. Thirty-nine second year molecular bioscience students took part in the innovation and wereinvited to volunteer in the evaluation of the study via an anonymous online questionnaire. Twenty-seven students participated and provided feedback on their experience. Overall, there was significantengagement with the approach, with students recognising the value of viewing the pre-practical videoand performing the quiz with regard to their learning and understanding. This paper presents anoverview of the approach implemented, insights from its evaluation, and recommendations foreducators aiming to implement the pre-practical concept.Keywords:pre-practical, science education, online, mobile quiz, video, preparation.*Research Paper. URL:

View Item