Investigating the viability of a competency-based, qualitative laboratory assessment model in first-year undergraduate chemistry†
In chemistry curricula, both the role of the laboratory program and the method of assessment used are subject to scrutiny and debate. The ability to identify clearly defined competencies for the chemistry laboratory program is crucial, given the numerous other disciplines that rely on foundation-level chemistry knowledge and practical skills. In this report, we describe the design, implementation, results, and feedback obtained on a competency-based assessment model recently introduced into the first-year laboratory program at an Australian university. Previously, this laboratory program was assessed via a quantitative, criterion-referenced assessment model. At the core of this new model was a set of competency criteria relating to skills-acquisition, chemical knowledge and application of principles, safety in the laboratory, as well as professionalism and teamwork. By design, these criteria were aligned with the learning outcomes of the course and the degree itself, as well as local accrediting bodies. Qualitative and quantitative feedback from students (and staff) obtained before and after the implementation of this new model suggested this approach provided an enhanced learning experience enabling a greater focus on the acquisition of fundamental laboratory skills and techniques.