Demonstrating in practical classes

Demonstrating in practical classesThe general aim for practical classes is to enhance students’ understanding of methods of scientific enquiry. This is pursued in a variety of ways where students are given the opportunity to undertake experiments; tackle problem-solving exercises; carry out survey and project work and experience at firsthand how the theory and principles of their discipline are applied. The key learning aims in practical classes (Allison, 1995) are:

Collectively, the pursuit of these key aims helps students appreciate both the method of scientific enquiry and professional attitudes appropriate to a given subject (Allison, 1995 p.40).

Consolidate subject knowledge

In practical classes students will have the opportunity to:

  • Consolidate highly and complex scientific knowledge.
  • Explore principles through concrete or simplified examples.
  • Revisit material taught in lectures.
  • Simulate conditions in research and development laboratories.
  • Develop skills in communicating technical concepts and solutions.
  • Learn about theoretical material not included in lectures.

Introduce disciplinary methods and procedures

The hands on experience in practical classes will help students:

  • Appreciate the methods and ethos of practitioners in a discipline and thus contribute to the shaping of professional attitudes.
  • Become motivated to acquire specific knowledge.
  • Learn to become independent thinkers.
  • Maintain and deepen their interest in the subject.
  • Learn the principles of experimental work in the subject.
  • See the use of labs as a process of discovery.


Develop technical skills

During their practical classes students will:

  • Learn how to use scientific equipment.
  • Develop their technical, observational and motor skills.
  • Keep a day-to-day laboratory diary.
  • Make notes to help them write reports on experiments.

Develop cognitive skills

In practical classes students will have the opportunity to:

  • Develop problem formulation and analysis skills.
  • Classify data; explain results and prediction responses skills.
  • Learn aspects of experimental design.
  • Make deductions from measurements and to interpret experimental data.
  • Develop skills in problem solving.
  • Use experimental data to solve specific problems.
  • Foster critical awareness by avoiding systematic errors.


Promote teamwork skills

During their practical classes students will:

  • Work in groups which can lead to an appreciation of the value of working with others.
  • Work collaboratively which can develop an insight into the skills needed to work effectively.
  • Develop teamwork skills when designing experiments; setting up experimental equipment; checking observations; sharing possible interpretations from results; compiling group reports.

Increase motivation

In practical classes students will have the opportunity to:

  • Work with other students which can lead to a greater motivation toward and interest in the subject.
  • Become familiar with learning aims of the practical class.
  • Receive focused and constructive support from their demonstrator.
  • See the full range of ways in which a given exercise is potentially useful.


As an effective demonstrator of practical classes you will:

  • Be approachable.
  • Show good knowledge of the theory, as well as techniques and skills.
  • Give clear explanations of what is expected of students.
  • Set a good example for students in their preparation for the session and their behaviour in the session.
  • Be able to link the material presented in the class with theory presented in their lectures.
  • Give clear explanations, when asked.
  • Mark without bias towards individuals and are consistent with other markers
  • Provide feedback to students, including constructive criticisms and suggestions for future improvement.

Worth considering: The deep learning of practical classes allows your students to organise content into a coherent whole rather than seeing tasks as an external imposition.


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