In this presentation, Anders Ahlberg from Lund University talked about how lab exercises can be improved to enhance learning. Lab practicals provide rich and authentic opportunities for quality learning. However, this talk departed from critical observations of lab exercises where
- more exercises are added than removed
- lab exercises drift into passive cookbook demos
- lab exercises are handed down from TA to TA (inherited)
- lab exercises are weakly linked to course modules
- intended learning outcomes of lab exercises are neither focused nor explicit
- design of lab teaching activities comes across as less structured than cheap learning activities such as lecturing
The talk provided the participants with models and principles useful in planning of lab curriculum and learning progression in STEM discipline study programmes. The importance of intrinsic motivation and teaching strategies as prerequists for good academic performance were emphasized during the talk. Labs can be held in many different ways, from demos to inquiry based and with a range of learning intentions. Sometimes the focus will be on developing practical lab skills, other times more on developing analytical critical thinking and collaborative skills. Depending on the planned learning outcomes lab exercises need to be varied moving along an axis of adaptive learning to more developmental learning to challenge the students approach to learning and theory. For an inspirational peak, have a look at Anders presentation here.
Seminar presenter Anders Ahlberg is a faculty study director for doctoral education and a senior lecturer at Engineering Education LTH. He has also a background as an associate professor in Earth Science.