Evaluation of improvements to the student experience in chemical engineering practical classes: from prelaboratories to postlaboratories

Kevin Morgan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Practical classes are an important and essential part of undergraduate programs in Chemical Engineering, as each experiment provides an opportunity to reinforce the theory of discrete unit operations that are taught elsewhere in the course. While an expensive pedagogical method, when practical sessions are delivered well, they can be one of the best learning experiences for students. As with all pedagogical methods, for students to gain maximum benefit of practical classes, a high level of engagement is required. Consequently, lab assignments need to be designed in a way that guides and instructs students on the theory, procedure, and risks associated with any practical and its associated assessments. This paper describes the outcomes of a qualitative investigation that evaluated student perceptions of updated prelab content combined with a new variation in postlab assessments and a renewed focus on practical skills during practical classes. The overall aim was to improve the student experience in practical classes. Paradoxically, periods of remote teaching enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic created further opportunities to make innovative changes to practical class resources. Subsequent student evaluations also indicated perceptions about each newly introduced component (instructional videos, online multiple-choice prelab quiz, variation in postlab assessment, introduction of grading rubrics, and a practical skills assessment), and more than 75% wanted these resources retained.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4597–4607
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number12
Early online date30 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2023


  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Testing/Assessment
  • Student Centred Learning
  • Practical work
  • Chemical Engineering

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