Using certification to assess microscope skills in the lab
FieldPass is an ongoing project at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and running until 2023. FieldPass is a cross-disciplinary project focusing on development, testing and researching new ways of assessing practical skills and general competences, in particular in relation to field and lab work. Through FieldPass, we test assessment forms like skills certification, revisiting field sites through virtual reality, and using various reflection tools. Here, we aim to develop certification tools that enable us to assess practical skills in the lab that are commonly assumed to have been learned when taking part in a course—but perhaps not actually assessed. We provide further information on the background of this project as well as information on how to create certification tools for the correct use of microscopes: FieldPass.
Goal & purpose
In many course learning outcomes, we state that certain practical skills will be learned, such as how to correctly use a microscope. But are we actually assessing those skills? Or do we just assume that they have been learned without ever explicitly testing this? In this project, we aim to develop assignments at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), the University of Oslo (UiO), and the University of Bergen (UiB) to assess lab skills such as the correct use of microscopes.
This certification tool is intended for teachers at university and high school level. The microscope certification tool was developed by course leaders who are running courses where microscope skills are taught.
Description of activities
Depending on microscope type, the certification is done in one or several steps. As a first step, a presentation on the use of a microscope is given (in future we plan to use videos on microscope use). After that, students get together in pairs and discuss what they just learned. For each certification step, a document (tick-off list) is available providing students with information on what they need to show when being certified. Once confident, they ask the teachers to be certified. During the certification, the students need to explain and show how to use the equipment mentioned on the tickoff list (step 1). The certification can entail several steps depending on the complexity of the microscope. Following step 1, further certification includes work tasks that need to be fulfilled in order to be certified. If students fail during the certification, they can practice once more, and then again ask to be certified. Once they have been successfully certified, they get a tag (we used post-it notes) and can then certify others. They are not allowed to certify their neighbor they initially discussed the material with. Once everyone is done and the 1st assignment is certified, students proceed with assignments 2 and 3. Once the students have passed the activity, they will get a microscope certificate stating which skills they have mastered.
The project is still in development; right now, rather than being a certification, it is a learning activity with elements of gamification involved. Challenges include what to do when students fail certification several times but still need to operate the instrument and how to integrate the microscope learning activity at the organizational level.
The certification process could also be levelled, with different qualification skill levels where students can choose which level they would like to be certified in and this will be stated on their certificate. Statement of a higher skill level could motivate students and enhance their learning and skill training.
- Simone Lang
- Pernille B. Eidesen
- Anne Bjune
- Anna Pieńkowski
- Tina Dahl