Assessing the impact of Labster on your students: Non-cognitive learning outcomes

If you haven’t already, read part one of this article about how to assess cognitive learning outcomes to learn more about how you can assess the impact of Labster on your students.

Learning is not just about the content of any given course or degree. Increasingly, extraneous skills and practices are being recognised as equally important – to the individual, the teaching institution and the future employer.

Research has shown repeatedly that Labster can increase student motivation and self-efficacy (see e.g. studies in Nature Biotechnology, BMC Medical Education and PLOS one) which are key to the student’s and institution’s success. On top of that, all of these are measurable metrics, meaning you can collect and use this data to evaluate students’ non-cognitive learning outcomes.

Read on to learn how you can assess your students’ non-cognitive learning outcomes, such as motivation and self-efficacy, and boost their confidence in the classroom.

Good to know before you start

If you are aiming for work of publication standard, I would strongly advocate that you have on-hand expertise to help with the selection of questions and interpretation of the data. Looking at the research papers above will be a good starting point for you to see how other researchers gathered this information.

Alternatively, most institutions will have in-house learning and teaching specialist faculty staff, who can either advise you themselves or will be able to team you up with the right person to take your idea further. And if not – reach out! You have a valuable commodity (high student numbers for gathering data from and your own motivation, skill and ability in research and analysis) that many would be happy to access, meaning you should be able to find willing collaborators without too much difficulty.

Methods for assessing performance: Student perceptions

Perception of feeling is often assessed against various indices and inventories of questions that the respondent answers on a sliding scale from 1-5 of agreeing or disagreeing. This is called a Likert scale.

You can use this scale to let students self-assess their motivation, self-efficacy or other relevant factors. Being able to report increases in these factors can be a real confidence builder for a class. One of the biggest insecurities students have about their learning is that they don’t believe they know how to learn, or that they are capable of learning independently.

Motivation and self-efficacy are not just feel-good factors, but are proven indicators of academic success too, so having these high on the agenda is essential when we are thinking about what we want our teaching sessions to deliver. Enjoyment is key!

Working on self-efficacy, and getting students to reflect on their ownership of that skill, is fundamental to setting students off beyond their studies on a lifelong learning journey, and is a deliverable outcome that educators and instructors have responsibility for. Reflective self-perception is sufficient to demonstrate this and can be worked on in groups in class or more personal, individual activities. It can be fun, interesting and insightful, but be absolutely clear that you are not getting into individual psychological analyses with your students! Personal reflection is essentially asking them to stop and think – did this work for me? It’s passing back some of the ownership of their own learning, and having students recognise that learning is not passive.

Students should be able to see that the simulations can help them to learn by themselves, and to then use that learning in group or shared activities with confidence. The quiz questions provided in the simulations will be great feedback for them, and help them see how they are achieving that self-learning skill as much as they are learning the science.

You can share the (anonymised) class data with your students in order to instigate a positive feedback loop on student development, and to foster a high level of trust with that transparency. This data isn’t so much about grades and assessment scores, so there are no winners or losers in reflective exercises.

Lastly, don’t forget the lab skills the students develop in the simulations.

Often it is this list of skills and experience that a student will be using to promote themselves in the scientific job market, and that an employer is looking at. Keeping a portfolio of all the techniques and skills learned through your course is a must – and you can vastly increase that portfolio through the use of simulations. If needed, these can be assessed beyond the simulation in short, quick lab based skills tests.

Combined, the self-assessment and the portfolio of skills can help improve the students’ overall evaluation of their development. By compiling non-cognitive learning outcomes with the assessment of cognitive learning outcomes, both you and your students will come to recognise the learning and development opportunity you have created for them, facilitated and supported by Labster simulations integrated in your course.

To learn more about how Labster helped improve achievement of learning outcomes, read how one professor used Labster and what impact it had, or watch our webinar to see how another professor used Labster in a flipped classroom setting.

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