Making university laboratory work in chemistry more effective
This study describes a survey which was conducted with 193 students and related particularly to their experience in a physical chemistry laboratory which did not involve pre-laboratory exercises. Pre-laboratory exercises were then developed for this laboratory and a second survey was conducted the following year, with a sample of 211. After the second survey, 60 students were also interviewed in groups in order to gain more information about their perceptions of the pre-laboratory exercises. A third survey was conducted with 229 first year chemistry students at the outset of their university chemistry course to explore their perceptions as they looked back on their school experience. Surveys were then carried out in Pakistan with three different groups: first year BSc. students (229), second year BSc. students (150), and BEd. Trainee Secondary Teachers (118), all these groups being drawn from Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. The aim was to explore student perception in a situation where laboratory work was not well established. In the surveys of Scottish students' views about their school and university laboratory experiences, it is clear that, at both levels, the students have positive attitudes towards their experiences. At school level, this reflects the well organised laboratory work which is strongly integrated with other teaching. At university level, the long established place of laboratory work has led to a well organised system. The overall importance from the results of this survey was that students saw the importance of laboratory work and wished it to be a successful and satisfying experience. In the Pakistan surveys, attitudes towards laboratory work are also positive. However, as there is little laboratory work at school, this can be seen as an indication that more is wanted while, at university, the laboratory work is much less well developed compared to Scotland and there is clear evidence that student views are becoming increasingly polarised with experience, a matter of some concern. Rigorous comparisons between Scotland and Pakistan were not considered appropriate in that the social, educational and professional structures are so very different.