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Development of competence in biochemical experimental work: Assessment of complex learning at university level
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Chemistry.
2004 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Biochemistry is part of life science: a fast developing multidisciplinary area. The overall aims of this thesis and the work underlying it were to find ways in which to develop competence in biochemistry at university level and to assess complex learning. A particular interest was the development of experimental work as a means to promote learning.

The study focuses on changes made in two educational settings. The aim of the changes was to develop competence, amongst both students and teachers. Therefore, the research in the three first papers has in some aspects, and to different extent, the characteristics of action research. Broadly, the changes can be described as making experiments more open, with multiple formative and authentic assessment methods involving both students and teachers. The empirical studies included questionnaires, interviews, questions asked during experimental work, written material as formulated objectives, examination questions and answers, reports, other products; and grades/judgements made by teachers and students. Collected data were analyzed in several different ways. Statistical methods included the use of mean values, paired T-tests, Spearman rank correlation coefficients and Principal Component Analysis. Interview data as well as some questionnaire data were analyzed using analytical induction techniques. Some categories were based on thematic content analysis, while others were based on Bloom’s taxonomy. Students’ attitude positions were categorized according to Perry’s framework.

The main results can be summarized as follows;

The students’ learning was improved by open ended versions of experimental work, according to both their and the researchers’ opinions. Planning, approaching problems from different perspectives and evaluating the results of their own experimental work promote the students’ capacity for higher order cognitive thinking. However, the synthesis level constitutes a threshold and particular support is needed for students with a more dualistic view of teaching, learning and experimental work.

Introducing formative and authentic assessment is a way to help students to make progress, and to develop competence. The importance was clearly demonstrated of involving both teachers and students in discussions of aims and criteria and of making them explicit. Feedback from teachers’ and students’ own reflective activities about subject content, and their learning as well as affective factors were shown to be central for complex learning. Based on our studies, areas were identified for the critical development of competence and for promoting learning in biochemistry at university level. These areas are; multidisciplinary and complex learning, communication skills of different types, metacognitive perspectives, attitude development, and affective factors.

The students see experimental work as crucial for their learning and therefore important in terms of assessment. Therefore, experimental work can and ought to be assessed. However, similarities and discrepancies were observed between students’ and teachers’ perspectives for both the aims and assessment of experimental work. Our conclusion is that a combination of assessment methods is needed in order to be able to make a high qualitative assessment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Kemi , 2004. , 68 p.
Keyword [en]
Teaching, experimental work, laboratory based project work, open experiments, biochemistry, life science, university level, action research, course design, aims and objectives, assessment, formative assessment, competence, complex learning
Keyword [sv]
Didaktik
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biochemistry
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-313ISBN: 91-7305-711-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-313DiVA: diva2:143054
Public defence
2004-10-02, KB3A9, KBC, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2004-09-13 Created: 2004-09-13 Last updated: 2012-05-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Benefiting from an open-ended experiment? A comparison of attitudes to, and outcomes of, an expository versus an open-inquiry version of the same experiment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Benefiting from an open-ended experiment? A comparison of attitudes to, and outcomes of, an expository versus an open-inquiry version of the same experiment
2003 (English)In: International Journal of Science Education, Vol. 25, no 3, 351-72 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article we compare outcomes of an open-inquiry and an expository version of a chemistry laboratory experiment at university level for 190 students. The aim of the study was to investigate if these two versions would result in different outcomes depending on the students' attitudes towards learning. We used a questionnaire to find out their attitude position prior to the laboratory experiment. The outcome in the different versions of the experiment was evaluated by interviews, questions asked during the experiment and students self-evaluations. The main findings were that the open-inquiry version shows the most positive outcomes regarding learning outcome, preparation time, time spent in the laboratory and student perception of the experiment. The students with low attitude position needed more support to meet the challenge of an open-inquiry experiment, the support being a clearer explanation of the aims, and feedback from the instructor during the experiment.

Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-9975 (URN)doi:10.1080/09500690210145738 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-08-22 Created: 2008-08-22 Last updated: 2012-05-10Bibliographically approved
2. Boosting complex learning by strategic assessment and course design
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Boosting complex learning by strategic assessment and course design
2005 (English)In: Journal of Chemical Education, ISSN 0021-9584, E-ISSN 1938-1328, Vol. 82, no 4, 645-651 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Learning quality depends on the assessment methods used, as well as other factors. By choosing adequate assessments and involving students in the process of learning, students can gain a deeper understanding of the content and its context while developing related skills. In this study we describe a practical university-level biochemistry course that focuses on understanding protein separation and analysis techniques and especially on their application. The course was designed to examine the effects of a strategic use of differentassessment methods and an analysis of the resulting outcomes. We used quantitative as well as qualitative methods, including a simplified variant of the Bloom taxonomy, statistical methods, principle component analysis, inquires, and interviews. We conclude that astrategic choice of assessments and instructional design can be used to achieve morecomplex learning. We did not find any single teaching or assessment method to be clearly the best for enhancing higher-order thinking or achieving all learning objectives; rather a combination of different methods (i.e., a strategic choice) seems the best approach.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Easton: Division of chemical education, American Chemical Society, 2005
Keyword
first-year undergraduate, biochemistry, chemical education research, learning theories
National Category
Medical Biotechnology (with a focus on Cell Biology (including Stem Cell Biology), Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry or Biopharmacy) Didactics
Research subject
Biochemistry
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4087 (URN)10.1021/ed082p645 (DOI)
Available from: 2004-09-13 Created: 2004-09-13 Last updated: 2011-03-10Bibliographically approved
3. Aims and Assessment of Laboratory Based Project work in a Master’s Level Biochemistry Course.: Students’ and Teachers’ Perspectives.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Aims and Assessment of Laboratory Based Project work in a Master’s Level Biochemistry Course.: Students’ and Teachers’ Perspectives.
Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4088 (URN)
Available from: 2004-09-13 Created: 2004-09-13 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved
4. Action Research as a Means of Professional Development: Reflections on Research and Action in University Chemistry Education.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Action Research as a Means of Professional Development: Reflections on Research and Action in University Chemistry Education.
2003 In: Journal of In-service Education, Vol. 29, no 3, 363-374 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4089 (URN)
Available from: 2004-09-13 Created: 2004-09-13Bibliographically approved

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