Author Jeyaseelan, S
Title Teaching and learning in engineering laboratory classes.

Project report (PGDipThe)--National Institute of Education

Year 1994
Supervisor Kings, Clive
Call no. T65.3 Jey

This project deals with teaching and learning, motivating students to learn actively and assessment of student performance in engineering laboratory classes. Teaching and learning in laboratory classes have similarities and differences to classroom teaching. In this particular case, the knowledge required to carry out the experiments is not usually covered in the lectures before the laboratory class. As such, for the students to do the experiments with good understanding, they must be given a brief background information before they actually do the experiment. This is a very difficult task. The main objective of this project is to develop effective teaching methods to facilitate the students to assimilate very necessary information to carry out experiment with good understanding within the limited allocated time.

Prior studies by the author on student learning, were undertaken using established standardized techniques (Study Process Questionnaire, Learning Study Index, learning and Study Strategy Inventory, and Course Experience Questionnaire) with first year common engineering students and, second year and third year civil engineering students of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The studies revealed that the students have a heavy workload and have insufficient time to retrieve information and engage in deep learning. They also feel that the lecturers do not interact enough to facilitate deep learning. Based on the studies of student learning behaviours and course experiences which indicated that they need time to assimilate information and more interaction to facilitate learning, the following strategy for promoting deep learning in relation to laboratory classes was derived.

Currently most laboratory classes are conducted in three parts. The first part is similar to a lecture in a classroom. Students are delivered a lecture for about 45 minutes briefly explaining the engineering principles involved in the experiment and the procedure to carry out the experiment. In the second part students do laboratory experiments on their own and collect necessary information required for the third part, which is an assessment of the their learning in the laboratory classes. This is achieved by assessing thelaboratory reports produced by the students. These reports are also produced within the time allocated for the laboratory class. Each of these stages are intended to facilitate active learning. In addition it was proposed to conduct a multiple-choice question (MCQ) tests after the 45 minutes lecture. The multiple-choice questions indicated the degree of understanding expected, and were carefully designed to help the students grasp the essence of the lecture and relevant information necessary to do the experiment and the laboratory assignment.

The new delivery mode was proposed to facilitate student learning through improved retrieval and processing of information. The proposed method was practiced in teaching first year and second year students. Experiments were conducted to test the effectiveness of the methods with different groups of first year and second year engineering students. Some samples of students were administered MCQ tests and their performances were compared with groups which were not administered the tests. Student learning were assessed through multiple-choice questions and laboratory reports, and students verbal responses were gathered. The study proved that assessment of learning is a good tool to facilitate the students retrieval and processing relevant information and store them in long-term memory. The new technique not only facilitated the students self-assessment and promotion of learning but also assisted the lecturer identify the concepts to be reinforced. It enabled the lecturer to assess individual students. First and second year students performances were compared.

The new delivery mode not only facilitated deep learning of the lecture material but also motivated students to actively learn in the experiment situation. The method demanded lot of preparation and involvement of the lecturer, as such it cannot be practiced with large group of students. The method was only tested with eight small groups of students and the rest were used for investigations. This should be tested with several other groups and with large samples to validate the method.