ICE | The Israel Chemist and Engineer

42 The Israel Chemist and Engineer Issue 1, September 2015, Tishrei 5776 Articles on Education Insights on learning and grading processes in laboratory courses Ruthy Sfez Department of Advanced Materials, Azrieli College of Engineering Jerusalem, Israel Email: Abstract: Laboratory courses are an important part in any curriculum of students learning for science or engineering degrees. They give the student the opportunity to apply theoretical principles which were learned in frontal courses. Moreover, it enables the student to deal with experimental results which deviate from the expected one, and evaluate the accuracy and precision of his results. Laboratory courses require a major effort on behalf of the students at three levels: preparation, performance and reporting, i.e. writing a scientific report and analyzing the experimental results. Usually, a laboratory session starts with a short pre-lab quiz and colloquium which examines the student' knowledge in usual known parameters of evaluation. The report can be evaluated in that way too. However, the evaluation of the performance in the lab, which can sometimes consist in about 50% and more of the final grades, is given intuitively by the instructors or teaching assistants (TAs). This situation implies a lackof clarityandconsistencybetween the students and teachers, and can cause biased grading depending on a specific instructor with no standardization in the evaluation and grading. Moreover, it is very difficult to estimate the learning process of the student during the lab course. In our institution (Azrieli College of Engineering, Jerusalem, ACE) we have developed in the past years a rubric score based on specific chosen parameters which was examined onmore than 100 students andmore than 20 TAs and heads of laboratories in various Chemistry courses. Analysis of the grading process showed that the rubric-based grading enables a systematic and standardized evaluation of experimental performance of the students. A comparison between grades based on intuition and on the developed evaluation method was done showing an expansion in the grading range. Following these results, a second step was taken in which a self-evaluation of the students was conducted and compared to the rubric parameters. This comparison gave an insight on the learning curve of types of students and can be used for real-time intervention during the lab course. Keywords: laboratory courses, evaluation, assessment, standardization, instructor-student interface Introduction: Science and engineering education in the 21 st century may be influenced by the development of distance learning [1] . However, laboratory courses are currently less affected by these changes. Laboratory courses have been for many years an essential part of the learning experience for every science or engineering student due to the special environment they provide which enables learning on various levels [2-7] . The main goals of laboratory courses have shifted during the years from learning factual information [8] to developing concepts [9] and scientific processes [10] . In a recent review dedicated to the goals of laboratory courses in the USA, group work and broader communication skills were also mentioned [11] . In any case, it is clear that laboratory courses can develop multiple skills, implying the major role of the laboratory instructor in defining what main skills are desired for a specific course [12] . Laboratory courses in chemistry are varied and serve different purposes and students. The courses range from general basic chemistry courses to specialized and advanced courses. Many laboratory courses are part of general courses, and are usually integrated in the course [9]. It is also important to note that laboratory courses require great effort on behalf of the student and are time consuming. A lab course is composed of several sections which require multiple skills. Usually, it can be Ruthy Sfez got her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in 2003. She continued as a researcher at the Hebrew University for several years. Since 2011 she is a senior lecturer at the department of advanced materials engineering and head of academic studies in Chemistry at Azrieli, College of Engineering, Jerusalem. Since 2013 she holds the position of students' dean. Her current research interests are self- assembled monolayers for various applications, hybrid nanomaterials and learning and grading process in laboratory courses.