Naiker, M., Wakeling, L. & Aldred, P. (2013). The relevance of chemistry practicals: First year students' perspective at a regional University in Victoria, Australia. 169-173. Australia: Australian National University Press.
The use of laboratory practical sessions in chemistry to enhance student learning is common practice but, student perspectives of the relevance of this experience to their learning is difficult to find. A unique situation arose with a cohort of first-year undergraduate students where they completed one introductory chemistry course with minimal laboratory component, followed by a second introductory chemistry course with a laboratory component included. Upon completion of both chemistry courses the students were surveyed to gauge their perceptions, attitudes and experiences relating to chemistry laboratory sessions and whether they aided their understanding of chemical concepts covered in lectures and tutorials. Students (88%) considered the laboratory work to be essential and/or important in aiding their learning of chemistry, highlighting that their learning was enhanced due to the cross-over between theory and practice, while also gaining a variety of laboratory skills. A more diverse range of laboratory activities was suggested, but some students noted that they appreciated some skills repetition. Incorporating a combination of introductory and inquiry based sessions could meet the needs of both of these groups of students, while enhancing skills in other areas.
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