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Successful practical classes are those that are well prepared. The unit chair has ultimate responsibility for the success of the practical program and their preparation for this should include preparing you to be a successful demonstrator. This means providing you with all the necessary resources to teach the classes well: practical manual, demonstrator's notes with all the handy hints, answers to questions, likely pitfalls, assessment breakdown etc., and possibly a copy of the textbook.
You will need to meet with the unit chair to discuss the practical activities. Many unit chairs or campus coordinators organise regular meetings of demonstrators to go through the practical exercises. Meetings are very valuable as the whole team is likely to be there, including more experienced demonstrators and the technician, so that you can hear about how the prac ran and what the pitfalls were the last time it was run.
Make sure you have read the prac notes beforehand so you can clarify any instructions or aspects of the prac that confuse you. The meeting may be an opportunity to trial some of the activities or preview materials to be used. Don't be afraid to ask questions of the unit chair at any stage remember they are teachers too and will be delighted to see you actively thinking the activities through. Even after you have run a class, you may have a few questions or something you now realise you don't fully understand, speak with a fellow demonstrator or to the unit chair.
If you have not demonstrated a particular practical activity before, you should definitely make sure you have trialled the activities. This way you will know exactly what you are talking about when helping students.
Some examples of trialling:
Another valuable strategy before you run a practical activity for the first time is to visit a class earlier in the week and observe how the class is introduced and how the demonstrators are managing. Always ask those taking the class if you can visit.
One of your key learning objectives for each prac should be to encourage students to see the links between theory learnt in lectures and the practical activities. Make sure you are familiar with the text the students use. Ideally the unit chair should provide you with a copy. If you confidently know your way around a text, then it is an easy matter to find the relevant diagram of the brain or the flow chart illustrating the breakdown of urea. You will also be re-enforcing the importance of the text in a student's study repertoire. You may be surprised at how many students do not buy texts. An experienced demonstrator emphasises the link between text and the prac by noting the highly relevant chapters, pages and diagrams on the board.
Look at your next prac and go over each of the following:
It is essential to arrive early in the lab. This is for a number of reasons: