DEVELOPMENT AND ASSESSMENT OF LABORATORY SKILLS IN A CHEMISTRY COURSE

The current European Higher Education Area (EHEA) demands an educational reform, which should be aimed at normalizing the different University programs. This new approach to Higher Education is offering the students an autonomous learning process that facilitates their self-consciousness, vision, practicality and freedom of discussion. Consequently, lecturers only represent one tool provided to achieve the necessary competencies in order to develop highly qualified professionals. This phenomenon has led to the adoption of new ways of addressing and implementing the teaching and the learning process in the University. In order to reach these competencies on science courses, it is essential to design appropriate practical seasons in which students apply all their theoretical knowledge. Thus, laboratory teaching, and hence the development of laboratory skills, has always been an integral part of any science-based course, and has played a distinctive role in science education and therefore in science degrees.
In this article, we present an effective educational approach to develop and assess accurately important laboratory skills/competencies such as critical thinking, group working and problem solving, on a general chemistry course, and how impacts constructively on the students’ final evaluation. This innovative experience, divided on three consecutive but different stages, was carried out with first-year students in the Ambiental Engineering degree on the 2011/12 course and the results has been compared with that on the previous year, where a 80:20 evaluation system (80% theoretical knowledge plus activities; 20% practical seasons) was delivered. Interestingly, inspection of the student’s surveys performed revealed that the academic results present a remarkable improving in the acquisition level in these competences and a high grade of students’ satisfaction.