A lab assessment refers to any type of assessment which is used to assess the ‘learning through doing’ that takes places in a teaching laboratory. A lab assessment may involve a variety of assessment types including writing a lab report, completing a test/quiz, designing a protocol or entry for a lab manual, developing an individual/group wiki, blog or eportfolio, participating in discussion fora and oral presentations.
Typically used to….
- assess technical skills (such as using laboratory equipment, tools, materials and software)
- Evaluate knowledge and understanding of laboratory procedures, including relevant health and safety guidelines
- assess problem-solving skills such as
- recognising and defining a problem
- formulating ideas
- designing experiments
- collecting and interpreting data
- testing concepts
- drawing conclusions
- communicating processes and outcomes
- assess knowledge and understanding of abstract concepts and theories
- evaluate ability to work as part of a team in laboratory settings
Key considerations when designing a lab assessment
When designing a lab assessment, keep the following points in mind:
- What is the purpose of the assessment? Is it the most appropriate way to assess student learning outcomes in this instance?
- Are you intending to use the lab assessment for formative or summative assessment purposes, or both?
- What criteria will you use to assess students’ submissions? Have you provided students with a rubric? Does the rubric align with the relevant learning outcomes?
- Be clear on what format the assessment will take. For example, it may involve:
- preparing a lab report
- handling data sets
- performing calculations
- designing a laboratory protocol or entry for a laboratory manual
- completing a test/quiz
- completing an individual or group research project
- designing a portfolio
- participating in discussion forums
- preparing an oral presentation on a relevant topic
Provide clear guidelines on any specifics that you will require as part of the assessment submission. For example, will students need to use a specific template or format? Will you require students to complete the assessment individually or as part of a group?
- How will students submit their assessment?
- Remember that your students may not have completed a lab assessment before. Check what institutional supports and guides are provided for this and share with your students in advance.
A student perspective on lab assessments
- O’Donnell, M. (2015) Science Writing, Wikis, and Collaborative Learning: This chapter from O’Donnell (2015) explores how wikis can support laboratory-based assessment in Science education. Used as an alternative to lab reports, the author argues that wikis provide an effective method of assessing individual contributions within a collaborative learning process.
- The EDTL Approach: Approaches to lab-based subjects Included in the Considerations for Lab-based Subjects are an Infographic, Case Studies, Framework Resources, and Exemplars and a recorded webinar featuring Dr Andrew Garrard (Sheffield University) and Prof. Michael Serry (Edinburgh University), that aim to inspire the transition from face-to-face to online delivery of Labs/Practicals.
- Lawrie, G.A., Grøndahl, L., Boman, S. & Andrews, T. (2016) Wiki laboratory notebooks: supporting student learning in collaborative inquiry-based laboratory experiments, Journal of Science Education and Technology, v25 n3 p394-409: This journal article from Lawrie, Grøndahl, Boman and Andrews (2016) argues that traditional assessments in the form of laboratory notebooks or experimental reports provide limited insight into the processes of collaborative inquiry-based activities. Here they present an initiative where a wiki was used to develop and assess the development of collaborative laboratory notebooks. Based on their evidence, they argue that the wiki environment enhanced co-construction of understanding of both the experimental process and subsequent communication of outcomes and data.