Virtual preparation for lab practicals
How can we better prepare students for their practicals, so that they learn more from them? Marjo de Graauw and her colleagues want to renew science education. Together they will develop interactive teaching materials to introduce students to laboratory courses. They are receiving a SURF grant of €100,000 for this.
'Practicum education is essential for our bachelor's programme in Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences (BFW),' says De Graauw, associate professor at the LACDR. 'But most new students have hardly any experience with this. They suddenly find themselves in a laboratory full of unfamiliar materials in which they have to study something like protein expression with equally unfamiliar techniques and devices.'
No time left for deeper understanding
De Graauw explains that all this new information causes a cognitive overload for the students. And that leads to teachers having to spend the valuable lab time mainly on explaining practical matters and how the equipment works. De Graauw: 'So there is hardly any time left for more in-depth work. Think, for example, of team discussions about research results and their interpretation. It is precisely these types of learning activities that raise the level of education to a higher level.'
Interactive teaching materials to prepare students
De Graauw and her team therefore want to develop interactive teaching materials that allow students to prepare for their practicals online. This will leave more time during the real practicals for in-depth study, without consuming extra teaching time from the lecturers.
These interactive lab protocols will consist of videos, photographs and schematic representations of the experiments. There will also be an accompanying database with questions linked to the interactive video content.
Not just for BFW
The project team is developing the material initially for the more than 1,000 bachelor's students at BFW. But the bachelor's programmes in Biology and Chemistry can also use the material. The materials will soon also be available for similar courses at other institutions. For the education at Leiden University, the team offers the materials through the existing platform LabBuddy, which also provides the other twenty or so institutions that use this platform with direct access to the interactive lab protocols.
Ready to make beautiful material
In any case, De Graauw is looking forward to starting the new project. During the writing of our proposal, so many great ideas for videos came along. I can't wait to see what learning materials we will create together. Here's to even better preparation for practicals and substantive discussion in the lab rooms!'
Marjo de Graauw and her team, together with Janine Geerling and the founders of LabBuddy, are organising the national Present Day Practicals symposium. Here, practical teachers can inspire each other each or every two years and share knowledge with a large community.