Developing reasoning skills through reflective lab assessment

Jasmina S. Lazendic, Istvan Laszlo, Kirsten Schliephake, Marilyn Baird

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearch


CONTEXT This case study describes the results from our approach to re-designing an assessment for a physics laboratory delivery for engineering students. In physics labs learning intentions tend to include, among other things, ability for students to evaluate any difference between experimental data and theoretical models, and critique what those differences mean in terms of data collection and analysis method used, therefore developing students' reasoning skills. However, driven by the assessment structure of a typical lab report, students tend to focus on completing the lab task and provide mainly superficial responses when asked to make inference from their experiment.

PURPOSE OR GOAL As a part of transformation of our unit to a student-centred teaching approach, we redesigned the assessment of laboratory work. The new assessment includes a two-step submission process, with the second step asking students to explicitly reflect on how their answers compare to answers of an expert, given via an exemplar. We wanted to find out if this new approach to lab assessment helps students develop metacognition, i.e., does it increase awareness of the thought process needed for developing reasoning skills.

APPROACH OR METHODOLOGY/METHODS We use action research methodology to examine the effectiveness of this new approach to lab assessment. We also use exploratory analysis of secondary data, collected by an end-of- the-semester anonymous survey administered by the University. We coded the survey responses looking for emerging themes from two questions, one asking about what is the most effective part of the unit and the other asking what could be changed.

ACTUAL OR ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES We find that the new approach to lab assessment motivated students to engage in their learning process and work on improving their reasoning skills in their lab reports and cultivating reflective professional practice.

CONCLUSIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS/SUMMARY We show that an assessment in our 1st year physics for engineering unit, that uses the principles of constructive alignment where the course assessment is driven by the learning outcomes and incorporates students' reflection on their learning process, can help improve students' reasoning skills. The future work will explore to what degree are these skills transferable to other elements of their learning (the in-semester tests and the exam).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication31st Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2020): Disrupting Business as Usual in Engineering Education
PublisherEngineers Australia
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781925627541
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
EventAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2020 - University of Technology, Sydney and the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 6 Dec 20209 Dec 2020
Conference number: 31st (published proceedings)


ConferenceAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2020
Abbreviated titleAAEE2020
Internet address

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