Investigating student and staff perceptions of students' experiences in teaching laboratories through the lens of meaningful learning
How students behave and learn in the teaching laboratory is a topic of great interest in chemical education, partly in order to justify the great expense of teaching laboratories. Much effort has been put into investigating how students think, feel and physically act in these unique learning environments. One such attempt was made through the generation and utilisation of the Meaningful Learning in the Laboratory Instrument (MLLI). This 30 question survey utilised Novak's theory of Meaningful Learning to investigate the affective, cognitive and psychomotor domains of the student learning experience. To date, this survey has been used to great effect to measure how students’ perception of their own feelings and actions will change over the course of a semester. This study reports the use of a modified MLLI survey to probe how the expectations of students change over their undergraduate degree. To increase the generalisability of the outcomes of the study data was gathered from four universities from Australia (Monash University, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney) and the UK (the University of Warwick). Students were found to start their university careers with very positive expectations of their teaching laboratory experiences. Their outlook became somewhat more negative each year that they were enrolled in the program. A further modified MLLI survey was presented to teaching associates and academic staff. Teaching staff were shown to have far more negative expectations of the students’ feelings and actions, with academic staff more likely to believe that students do not undertake many items of positive meaningful learning. Overall, this study highlights the large gap between the expectations of teaching staff and students which, if left unaddressed, will likely continue to cause great frustration for both teaching staff and students.