Is there a transition flux? Incorporating a research element into an undergraduate engineering laboratory
Lawler, Jenny and Foley, Greg (2010) Is there a transition flux? Incorporating a research element into an undergraduate engineering laboratory. In: NAIRTL/LIN Annual Conference 2010, 6-7 October 2010, Dublin, Ireland.
Full text available as:
It is frequently remarked that the modern student has an excellent ability to recall information but cannot think independently and does not show initiative. While the secondary school curriculum is a major factor in this regard, it must be said that large parts of the third level experience perpetuate this problem. However, increased use of active learning, problem based learning and research-based learning should help to encourage independent thinking. In most degree courses in Engineering/Science, a final year project is the first true taste of scientific research encountered by undergraduate students. The final year research project can often prove an extremely daunting task, and the amount of time and effort required by the undergraduate student to settle into this new type of work can be detrimental to the work of the student on core subjects that are assessed by written examination.
We present here the incorporation of real research into an engineering laboratory module taught in the third year of a Biotechnology degree program. This is achieved by challenging the students with a hypothesis to be investigated using the laboratory session, rather than the traditional prescriptive approach resulting in a defined laboratory report. Each laboratory group conducts their experiment using unique experimental conditions and the results are collated into a body of work to challenge the hypothesis presented to the students. The students learn to disseminate their results effectively by including the requirement that the report be constructed in the form of a journal article.
By adopting this approach to teaching in the laboratory, students are introduced at an earlier stage to the skills needed to conduct meaningful scientific research. In particular, it encourages students to evaluate experimental data without bias. By performing experiments for which the outcome is not known in advance, student interest and enthusiasm is significantly increased.
Archive Staff Only: edit this record