Get the most out of pracs and labs
In your degree, you may spend time performing ‘hands-on’ learning activities in ‘pracs’ and ‘labs’: practical environments such as laboratories, site visits or field work.
Activities in practical environments are designed to help you to:
- explore your theoretical knowledge
- apply your theoretical understanding to practical problems
- use techniques and equipment safely and correctly
- develop skills to manage resources and time
Learning in practical environments often has three phases:
- Preliminary work or ‘pre-practical’, which involves preparing for the exercise.
- During the practical where you will perform the activity under guidance.
- A post-practical exercise where you write up the work in the form of a report or presentation. The purpose of this is to clarify and fully understand what you have done and what the practical has demonstrated.
Note: Sometimes a practical can unfold over multiple sessions and the three phases may apply over an extended period.
- Read the materials and procedures for your practical 2 to 3 days prior to your session (highlight key concepts, comprehend unfamiliar language, preview procedures and measurements).
- Identify any new or unfamiliar language and try to discover the meaning.
- If a method is provided to you, summarise the key steps and think about the purpose of each of these steps. Record this somewhere.
- Complete and pass any pre-practical activities such as quizzes, risk assessments or additional reading if they have been assigned.
- Bring any required safety equipment and review any safety procedures or expectations related to site visits or field work.
- Arrive on time! Many practicals require collaborative work so being late will affect your own and others’ learning. Educators also often provide context, useful tips and safety warnings at the start of the session.
- Consider who is best placed to assist when more information is needed. Sometimes you might ask team members and, at other times, you might ask your educator for clarification on aspects of the activity.
- Be curious. Ask questions of yourself and your team members, provide feedback and challenge yourselves to justify your thinking. Discuss your understanding and predictions with each other and the educator.
- Take detailed notes of procedures, observations and measurements in a dedicated notebook.
- Consult the assessment guide and/or marking rubric for any required submissions.
- Clarify points of confusion with your educators and/or other students (unit forums are an ideal place).
- Complete any required submissions within the time allocated.
- Reflect on the activity, consolidate key learnings, and add these to your notebook. You may also be required to identify next steps or connections to future practicals.
“Use the practical to teach you how to manage uncertainty and be prepared to not always have all of your questions answered. After the practical, identify the next set of questions that would be useful to explore in your next practical by engaging actively with the materials you have received.” - Lecturer, MNHS
“One of the components of our instructional model is reflection. We often ask students to reflect on their skill development after an activity, what they've learned and also what else would they need to further develop their skill” - Lecturer, Pharmacy