Improving the effectiveness of laboratory education with feedback and assessment

SHORT DESCRIPTION

Immediate feedback and assessment are essential for learning. Both are problematic in large scale inquiry based and research based laboratory courses, because of the following barriers:

  • Large scale laboratory courses look much like “beehives”, in which the many students walk around with samples. This “beehive problem” makes it impossible to keep track of individual student performance and to provide immediate feedback and assessment.
  • Most teachers and teaching assistants (“instructors”) in the lab have had little training in giving feedback and in assessing students.
  • Students have had little training in giving feedback to their peers.
  • Because of inter-instructor differences, the quality of the feedback and assessment is not guaranteed.

As a result, there is little to none immediate feedback (formative assessment) on student’s performance during the laboratory course, keeping students from the opportunity to put this feedback into practice. Hence, we do not optimally use the valuable laboratory time where students would gain much from high quality feedback. Additionally, summative assessment of students’ performance at the end of the laboratory course is often based on their final report and subjective “gut feelings” with respect to their actual performance in the lab. 

OBJECTIVE

Better assessment of student performance and corresponding provision of feedback to each individual student during (and after) laboratory courses.

In this education innovation project we aim to improve the effectiveness of large-scale laboratory courses using an integrated online assessment and feedback system (the OAF System) for laboratory education. The OAF System will be based on recent educational literature and instructor input. It will be part of the LabBuddy ecosystem and will assist both instructors and students in providing high quality feedback and assessment during and after large scale laboratory courses. As such, the OAF System will serve as a performance support system during the laboratory course and as a system for summative assessment at the conclusion of the course. 

STRONG POINTS

The assessment tool is now available and can be used by teachers that use Labbuddy for their lab classes. Teachers can make their own assessment plan and can ask the supervisors to assess their students.  

RECOMMENDATIONS

Assessing student performance during laboratory classes was and is still a delicate process. 

  • Teachers should carefully consider how to use the assessment tool: what to assess, if and how to inform students.
  • First consider what is realistic and fair. 
  • Assessing students on their performance during laboratory classes is only doable if supervisors are given time and the skill to do this.
  • Using the tool during the lab classes might need to be carefully communicated. It might be necessary to explain to students that supervisors are assessing students during lab classes using their smartphone. In this way, supervisors might feel less burdened.

PRODUCTS

The assessment tool: The Labbuddy assessment tool is developed (by Kryt bv in close collaboration with the Laboratory of Food Chemistry) and is now available in Labbuddy. Teachers can make their own assessment plan in which they indicate on which performance items they would like to assess their students. Supervisors receive access to the tool and can indicate for each item the performance for each student. Teachers can indicate when the assessment needs to be performed by the supervisor, and how often. Labbuddy ensured that student pictures can become visible in the assessment tool, which makes assessment for large groups of students even easier. The student pictures can be send to Kryt to be uploaded.