The University of Melbourne
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Talking the talk: a framework to introduce verbal learning in lab-based teaching and assessment

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posted on 2024-03-07, 01:36 authored by Bethany Goudswaard, Charlotte ClarkCharlotte Clark

This poster was presented at the HERDSA (Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia) 2023 Annual Conference.


Background/context. We introduced a verbal learning task into an undergraduate developmental biology subject to assess the benefits of this activity and develop a framework for implementation. In this subject, students complete a series of laboratory-based practicals and associated lab reports. Written lab reports are an authentic and suitable assessment task, however we wished to draw on the discursive nature of scientific research and introduce an element of verbal learning to these tasks. We also hoped to help students identify links between tasks and to utilise feedback to improve subsequent work.

The initiative/practice. We introduced a verbal learning task after submission of the first of three lab reports. Students met with a demonstrator to discuss the lab report and were encouraged to explore their learning more deeply.

Methods of evaluative data collection and analysis. We performed a mixed methods analysis, comparing student grades and undertook a thematic analysis of discussions.

Evidence of outcomes and effectiveness. Comparison of student grades in subsequent assessment tasks demonstrated no significant difference for students who did or did not participate in the task suggesting no direct benefit (or detriment) to students. Thematic analysis demonstrated that students were able to critically analyse their work, discuss the significance of their findings, and saw value in the activity. Based on these findings, we have developed a framework to inform curricular development in this subject. We will extend the number of practical classes and lab reports and modify the assessment criteria, better allowing students to action feedback from early reports to improve the quality of subsequent reports. They will also be encouraged to discuss these reports and their feedback with teaching staff in lab classes, increasing the authenticity of both the teaching and assessment. This flexible framework can be applied in other teaching and learning settings.


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