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Voice of the Students: Continuous Lab Course Improvement Using Student Feedback

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Division for Experimentation & Lab-oriented Studies Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Bridget M. Smyser Northeastern University

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Dr. Smyser is an Associate Teaching Professor and the Lab Director of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

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The educational benefits of laboratory courses are well established, but their high infrastructure and equipment needs can be a barrier to innovation, causing the courses to stagnate over time. Standard course evaluation feedback is not sufficiently enough to gauge the effects of lab experiment improvements on student learning. This study presents a methodology for continuous improvement of a lab course. Students were initially asked to provide their own edits to existing lab handouts, which were compiled to determine common points of confusion from the student perspective. This input, as well as voice of the customer data from focus groups, was used during the development of new labs. The response to the new labs was monitored via surveys each term. Surveys were designed to elicit experiment-specific responses such as whether students felt they learned from the experiment, whether the experiment was frustrating or engaging, and if they could use the information from the lab in future work. Six years of survey data was used to determine correlations between lab aspects and student outcomes. There were strong correlations (R^2 = 0.79) between lab activities that students felt helped them learn and activities they felt might be applicable to problems outside lab. There were also moderately strong correlations (R^2 = 0.47) between grades on an open-ended experimental design project and lab activities that were perceived as applicable to outside problems. Additionally, the survey data demonstrated that the benefits of new lab experiments developed with student feedback and input are sustainable over time. Finally, this methodology allowed for rapid identification of problems in the course and a timely assessment of course improvements. This methodology is easily adaptable to any lab course and can indicate where limited time and resources should be directed for maximum impact.

Smyser, B. M. (2018, June), Voice of the Students: Continuous Lab Course Improvement Using Student Feedback Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31228

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