Supporting science students to be problem solvers, not recipe followers Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply

Last updated on 25/02/2020

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Dr Adam Palmer shares his experience of PebblePad to record and present experiment data produced by Engineering and Physics students at Griffith University.


How can students show that they have understood the requirements of undertaking an experiment, present the findings from these activities, and easily share and refer back to this information in a real-world context?


The engineering and physics cohort can have up to 600 students across two campuses.  One of the key factors here is employability, and students will be more engaged when they realise that this will help them with their career.  So this activity is about providing a defined scaffold for recording and presenting data correctly.

One of the key employability factors is the ability for an employer to give an employee a task, and for that employee to solve this task independently.

So in a real-world scenario where a client has given you a task do to, how would you go about designing an experiment to do that, documenting it correctly, and then presenting your findings in a meaningful way?

The two problems that we are attempting to address here are:

  • The connectivity from year to year of the laboratory courses
  • A mind shifts in the students.  That is, how we assess them, and how they define themselves in their course.  Rather than passive learners doing as they are told in a step by step approach, they become active learners where we push them in a certain direction, but they're learning themselves.

The lab notebook is very important in recording experiment findings, particularly for long projects that may take four to five years to complete.   In these instances, you must be able to easily refer back to milestones.  So, students are instructed on how to use the lab notebook to record data, and then how to present this data in a meaningful way.

The first task involves doing lab work, watching videos, undertaking the task, and then presenting the lab notebook to instructors for feedback.

In the second task, they do much the same thing, that is, pre-lab work, answer questions, but this time students will design their own experiment.

The next step is to present their findings, using the following options:

  • A video presentation
  • A poster presentation
  • A two-page summary of their experiment

The most useful aspect of PebblePad has been the ability of students to share their work at every step of the process, and for lecturers to access this work in order to monitor progress and provide formative feedback as required.


In essence, PebblePad has allowed our students to:

  • Record activities
  • Record and upload media evidence
  • Collate their unique experiences and reflect on them to build self-awareness of their capabilities
  • Bring others into the process to provide formal and informal feedback
  • Share and showcase their ability
  • Mitigate the risk of lost work

Enabling Technology


Pebblepad (Fact sheet). Getting Started with VLE tools and the Course Design Standards.

Pebblepad (Module). Getting Started with VLE tools and the Course Design Standards.


The key is to encourage students to use PebblePad in the way that we want them to use it.  So, this is about communicating the following concepts:  

  • Outline how PebblePad will be used for your course
  • Provide instructions on the use of PebblePad as a tool for reflection
  • Set clear expectations for your work depth and quality
  • Provide a detailed support document for assessment requirements
  • Provide examples of completed work 

Your Learning and Teaching Consultant can suggest ways of optimising the use of PebblePad for your teaching practice. 


Griffith Graduate Attributes

PebblePad may assist in the development of the following Griffith Graduate Attributes:

  1. Knowledgeable and skilled, with critical judgement
  2. Effective communicators and collaborators
  3. Innovative, creative and entrepreneurial

Contributed by

  • Griffith Sciences
    School of Engineering and Built Environment
    Dr Adam Palmer
    (07) 555 27657
  • Learning Futures


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Preferred Citation

Palmer, A (2020). Supporting science students to be problem solvers, not recipe followers. Retrieved from