Reasserting the role of pre-laboratory activities in chemistry education: a proposed framework for their design
In this article we summarise over 60 reports and research articles on pre-laboratory activities in higher education chemistry. In the first section of the review, we categorise these activities as follows. First are those intending to introduce chemical concepts, that typically take the form of a pre-laboratory lecture, pre-laboratory quizzes, and pre-laboratory discussion. Second are those intending to introduce laboratory techniques, that typically take the form of interactive simulations, technique videos, mental preparation, and safety information. Finally, a small number of activities intended to prepare students for affective aspects of laboratory work, in the form of enabling confidence and generating motivation are described. In the second section of the review, we consider a framework for design of pre-laboratory activities that aligns with the principles of cognitive load theory. We propose how the two tenets of such a framework – supporting learners in complex scenarios and provision of information necessary to complete tasks – can be considered for the case of preparing for laboratory learning. Of particular relevance is the nature of information provided in advance and that provided just in time, characterised as supportive and procedural information respectively. Finally, in the concluding section, we draw together the principles outlined in the framework and findings from reports of pre-laboratory work in chemistry to propose five guidelines for those wishing to incorporate pre-laboratory activities into their laboratory curriculum; an activity we argue has a significant literature basis for us to encourage.