Teaching Innovation Awards Winner

University of Brighton

School of Applied Sciences
Dr. Neil Crooks, Dr. Inga Zeisset, Mr. Aidan Barker
Headshot of Dr. Neil Crooks
Headshot of Dr. Inga Zeisset
Headshot of Aidan Barker


LearnSci were approached as a solution to marking problems faced by a small team with a large cohort. Smart Worksheets (SWs) are currently used by another team in the school and were recommended as a possible solution. The primary concern was that SWs would simply offer a process of uniformly filling in gaps and would not challenge students. Discussing this in detail and highlighting concerns with Aidan it was clear the SWs could be utilised in a much more innovative way with a multi-faceted approach.

Two assessments were identified, root tip mitosis and mark-recapture (historically students have struggled writing up these two activities). The fundamental principles were to increase student confidence, make student data go farther and to support their analysis of data within a spreadsheet with a SW. Both worksheets followed the same principle, the only difference for root tip mitosis was that it was innovatively set up to produce a unique randomised image of a root tip slide for each student, allowing students to practice the activity of identification and calculation of mitotic index prior to the laboratory without relying on peers for the answers. This also enabled them to see if their sample preparation had worked whilst in the laboratory.

We devised a series of explorative data sets with the key concept being how we can make the students data go further, with contribution to a wider data set. The concept was to build in a process whereby the entire cohort (~140 students) input their own data, compiling a large group data set on the worksheet. This allowed a robust analysis for both worksheets and the larger data set required students to calculate a confidence interval. We also introduced a further calculation section, which aimed to support the use of spreadsheets with SWs, the first time a SW has been designed to allow students to receive feedback from the use of a spreadsheet rather than inputting data from a calculator. The worksheet also contained a violin chart that was set to update with values as the student proceeded through the SW, thereby making the experience more interactive and developmental.

This multi-faceted and innovative approach enabled a truly interactive experience and allowed the students to work with larger and more complex data sets. Students said they found the worksheet tasks challenging, making them think critically, but that they allowed them to build confidence. We anticipated that the students may find these activities simple to complete, but it seems the innovative set-up has really driven students to interact fully with the assessments. The aim of the laboratory sessions has always been to link to the data handling module and we were able to align the use of spreadsheets and the calculation and understanding of confidence intervals to activities used in the SWs. It is clear that the three principles highlighted above were achieved with great success and that SWs can hugely benefit student learning. These innovations are now being considered by other colleagues in the school who utilise SWs.