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Practical and laboratory work

The Introduction and Essential Considerations of planning practical and laboratory work are shown below, with separate further sections including the design and aims and learning outcomes available in the left hand navigation.


Laboratory and other practical work is a necessary part of the learning experience of most students and especially those of science, engineering and health related disciplines.

It serves many purposes - it can develop essential transferable skills, perhaps associated with information technology, it can develop subject specific skills such as use of apparatus and it can serve to demonstrate and reinforce material of lecture courses.

It can also develop an understanding of experimental methods and techniques applicable to a discipline and a knowledge of the limitations and accuracy of those methods. It also introduces students to the workplace and, through practical work, helps them learn team-working skills, safe working practices and self-dependence. 

Essential considerations

You should be able to answer 'yes' to each of the following questions if practical work has been properly planned:

  • Do you know what you want the practical work to do (e.g. 2 - 3 key learning outcomes)?
  • Are the students properly briefed about the work and expectations upon them (e.g. pre-practical workshop)?
  • Does the work itself stimulate and interest the students?
  • Have you identified realistic things that the students must deliver at the end of the practical (e.g. sample, demonstration, write-up, ability to discuss)?
  • Do you have fair, fast and reasonably efficient methods of assessment?
  • Are you using staff (e.g. academics, PG demonstrators, technicians) effectively and efficiently?
  • Does each practical exercise fit in with the overall aims of the programme and course unit?