Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Cambridge (2008) Proc Physiol Soc 11, PC55

Poster Communications

Introduction of on-line pre-practical quizzes as a means to increase undergraduate student engagement with laboratory practical classes

P. D. Langton1, F. M. MacMillan1

1. Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Laboratory practical classes are a compulsory component of our physiology level 1 unit which is taken by approximately 180 students. The unit is mandatory for honours physiology and neuroscience undergraduates and is an optional unit for degree programmes, including biochemistry, anatomical science, psychology and biological science. We have observed that many students attend practical laboratories having not read the practical schedule and make little attempt to engage. A major theme of our ‘Applied and Integrated Medical Sciences Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (AIMS CETL)’ is laboratory-based learning. To tackle this problem we adopted the thesis of (Bull and Stephens 1999), that assessment drives learning, and introduced a series of mandatory on-line quizzes which students were required to take in the week before each laboratory practical. Students were required to have an overall pass mark (40%) for the quizzes throughout the year to be deemed to have satisfactorily completed the required elements of the unit. There were eleven quizzes in total, the first two were not associated with specific laboratory practicals but focussed on experimental design, data analysis and problem solving. The remaining nine quizzes were each associated with a particular laboratory practical, for example, haemolysis of blood, blood pressure, lung volumes and renal function. Students received emails reminding them of approaching quiz deadlines. Each quiz contained a variety of question types; numeric and text entry, multiple-choice, true-false and drag-and-drop. Upon completion of each quiz, a student was provided an immediate on-screen score and the opportunity to review feedback on each question they answered incorrectly. The quizzes were authored in Questionmark Perception (version 4) and are available for guest access at http://qmp.bris.ac.uk; username ‘1abc’, password, ‘2xyz’. Compliance was excellent; 75% of the students completed all 11 of the quizzes and of the maximum number of quizzes (180*11=1925), 1839 (95%) were completed. The distribution of marks was not normal but was right skewed, the median mark being 76%. Only two out of 180 students failed to achieve the required 40% overall pass mark for the quizzes. Solicited, anonymous feedback from students was very positive with 78 comments volunteering that the quizzes obliged them to ‘do preparatory work in advance of the practical’, ‘read the practical schedule’ and ‘practice relevant calculations’. One student wrote, “[the quizzes] did encourage me to read the schedule before the experiment when otherwise I won’t have, in all honesty”.

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