Training final year students in data presentation skills with an iterative report-feedback cycle

Heather Verkade


Although practical laboratory activities are often considered the linchpin of science education, asking students to produce many large practical reports can be problematic Practical reports require diverse skills, and therefore do not focus the students’ attention on any one skill. They are also time-consuming to write and mark, limiting the speed at which feedback can be returned. To refocus students specifically on the skills of data presentation and interpretation I asked the students to produce a results figure, as would be found in a journal article, one for each of four practical topics. The students found this a challenge, but their skills improved markedly over the semester due to an efficient feedback cycle. Students were very engaged with this assessment, as it caused them to re-consider what they understood about the results of the practical. As this assessment is a small focused version of a practical report, it allows faster marking and return of practicals, and reduces the proportion of marks allocated to practicals, allowing more marks to be allocated to other components of the unit/class such as exams. This is therefore a successful method of focusing students’ attention on presenting and interpreting practical results, in an efficient and cost-effective manner.


practical reports; formative assessment; science; data interpretation

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