Classroom practices: engaging the first year university student in “the novel” practical experience

Ieva Stupans, Trenna Albrecht, Jane Coffee, Elizabeth E. Elliot, Eileen Giles, Sharron King, Karma Pearce, Tim Sawyer, Sheila Scutter, Helena Ward


The opportunity for first-year health sciences student to interact with patients is usually limited. The challenge for health sciences academics teaching first year foundation courses is to demonstrate to students the relevance and links to professional practice of these courses. In the sciences and health sciences practical classes provide students with a social environment, opportunities for collaborative learning and student faculty interaction. Novel strategies which may be used in lecture and practical class formats to motivate students include structuring an activity using familiar materials or processes in order to explain the unfamiliar. Selection of familiar materials to explain new or difficult concepts can introduce an element of fun into the learning experience. These types of activities represent a form of “experiential learning” where knowledge acquisition results from peer interaction and feedback in an entertaining and low risk environment. The focus of this paper is to examine a number of practical class learning opportunities where the activity was structured using familiar materials or processes in order to explain the unfamiliar. These learning opportunities demonstrated obvious links to professional practice. These classes also provided an environment that facilitated active learning within a social context. These examples were collaboratively evaluated against models for motivation strategies. A summary of key points for each of the learning opportunities and a comparative table for the individual learning opportunities, using the framework of instructional questions associated with ARCS motivational categories (attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction) is presented. These novel practical classes can be used to demonstrate the professional relevance of foundational health sciences courses and fulfil criteria to be motivating, and therefore potentially engaging for students in a social environment. More importantly, as each of these examples indicates, the practical class can provide a scaffold for students to be able to meet learning objectives. Our observations align with those of others who have observed that learning opportunities such as those described in this paper make abstract ideas more tangible.

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