Making it work: Practical work in tertiary Life Sciences

Constantinou, Marina and Fotou, Nikolaos (2023) Making it work: Practical work in tertiary Life Sciences. In: New Perspectives in Science Education, 16-17 March, Florence, Italy.

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Making it work: Practical work in tertiary Life Sciences
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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
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Practical work has been regarded for a long time and, as argued in this paper, unquestionably a fundamental component in the teaching and learning of biology-related sciences across all educational levels and an integral component of most, if not all, degree programmes in the Life Sciences (LS) in Higher Education institutions around the world. Whilst there are claims attributing educational benefits to practical work for LS undergraduates as per its effectiveness in promoting the development of conceptual understanding and practical skills [1, 2], these sometimes are either not empirically tested, or, for many reasons, seem overly ambitious. This almost a priori and unquestionable effectiveness of practical work - to the extent that its devoid in LS degrees is virtually unimaginable [3] - points to the need for a more evidence-based approach to its role in supporting undergraduates’ learning and thus its necessity in LS undergraduate curriculum. This need is more critical especially when practical work instruction is very expensive, both for academic personnel, laboratory equipment, reagents, and supplies during an academic year. This paper reports on the findings of a mixed-methods case study conducted with LS undergraduate students in the UK to examine the effectiveness of practical work in conceptual understanding and the development of practical skills. Observations and in situ informal assessment of undergraduates’ conceptual understanding and skill development provided an objective empirical evaluation of the circumstances under which practical work is effective in these two areas. The preliminary findings of the study reported here showed that whilst the development of basic practical skills is satisfactory, conceptual understanding is, in most cases, lacking or insufficient. Deriving recommendations on how such an effective practical work lesson should be designed, staged, and conducted are also reported.

Keywords:Practical Work in Higher Science Education, Undergraduate Practical Work, Biology Practical Work, Practical work in Life Sciences, Practical Work
Subjects:X Education > X340 Academic studies in Tertiary Education
X Education > X342 Academic studies in Higher Education
X Education > X990 Education not elsewhere classified
X Education > X300 Academic studies in Education
X Education > X900 Others in Education
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:54448
Deposited On:22 May 2023 13:13

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