Teaching in Laboratories
Teaching labs form an essential part of undergraduate courses in many STEM courses as they are important places for students to learn the skills needed to be successful scientists and engineers. While the focus of teaching labs varies by discipline there are many features including pedagogy, assessment, as well as logistics, that span across disciplinary boundaries. In the Teaching Labs SIG, we aim to share knowledge of what works well to benefit the entire community involved with teaching in labs and ultimately act to ensure excellence in the delivery of the student experience.
19 September 2023
12.00-12.30 - Intro and rapid updates
12.30-13.00 - Lunch and discussion
13.00-13.15 - Talk from Peter Johnson: A survey to evaluate laboratory activities across an undergraduate engineering degree programme
13.15-13.30 - Q&A and further discussion
Theme: Evaluation of teaching labs - how do we know a lab course is good?
We had a very informative discussion about the different ways that people evaluate their labs from Medical Biosciences, Computing, Physics, Chemistry, Materials, and Engineering. We discussed using surveys as well as student reflections to evaluate courses; and how feedback from later years on a degree course can help improve how courses are run in earlier years. Peter Johnson gave us a presentation on his survey that he has been running for 5 years to help guide decision making in the Mechanical Engineering labs, which led to conversations about how best to write and design surveys.
10 January 2023
12.00 - Rapid updates – Assessment and grading in labs
12.25 - Lunch and discussion
13.00 - External speaker - Ben Zwickl (RIT)
We had rapid updates from Priya Saravanapavan (Materials) and Stuart Mangles (Physics) on assessment in their teaching labs, followed by an in-depth discussion on the motivations and lessons learned from implementing different forms of assessment. Priya highlighted that in the first year course in Materials they get students to write parts of a lab report (e.g., an introduction, a figure, a results section) and provide feedback on those before asking students to construct a full lab report.
Ben Zwickl talked about using activity theory to think about the tensions around assessment in lab courses, providing a preview of his upcoming book chapter on the topic. This tension resonated with many in attendance. Ben highlighted that the tension can be navigated by narrowly defining the learning goals of a course and aligning assessment with those goals.
22 September 2022
12.00 – Welcome & Introductions
12.05 - Rapid updates
12.30 - Networking, discussion, lunch
13.00 - External speaker – Andrew Garrard and Harry Day (University of Sheffield)
13.20 - Q&A
As the inaugural meeting, we introduced the purpose of the SIG and asked people to provide short introductions to the teaching labs in their departments. We had contributions from:
Graham Axtell – Physics
Peter Johnson – Mechanical Engineering
Laura Patel – Chemistry
Paul Franklin – Materials
Umang Shah & James Campbell – Chemical Engineering
Our external speakers from the University of Sheffield talked to us about how they organise teaching labs for multiple different engineering disciplines within the department of Multidisciplinary Engineering Education. Both the introductions and external speakers spurred a great deal of conversation, with everyone very enthusiastic to find out what others are doing in their teaching labs