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Assessing what prospective laboratory assistants in biochemistry and cell biology know: Development and validation of the test instrument PROKLAS
Gantner, S., Großschedl, J., Chakraverty, D., Harms, U.

Assessing what prospective laboratory assistants in biochemistry and cell biology know: Development and validation of the test instrument PROKLAS

Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 8(3). 10.1186/s40461-016-0029-9

Laboratory assistants in biology and medicine play a central role in the operation of laboratories in hospitals, research institutes, and industries. Their daily work routine is characterized by dealing with molecular structures/chemical substances (i.e. biochemistry) as well as cell cultures (i.e. cell biology). In both these fields of biochemistry and cell biology, laboratory assistants rely on knowledge about three laboratory tasks: responsible action, data management, and laboratory techniques. Focusing on these laboratory tasks, we developed a test instrument measuring the professional knowledge of prospective laboratory assistants (acronym: PROKLAS) about biochemistry and cell biology.

We designed a paper-and-pencil test measuring the professional knowledge of laboratory assistants required to fulfill daily laboratory tasks in biochemistry and cell biology. A sample of N = 284 Vocational Education and Training (VET) students [(average age = 20.0 years (SD = 3.3)] were tested in a cross-sectional study. The sample comprised of prospective biology laboratory assistants, biological technicians, and medical laboratory technicians.

Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) indicates that the test developed allows us to measure the professional knowledge of laboratory assistants in biochemistry and cell biology as two empirically separable constructs among laboratory assistants. CFA with covariates widely confirms the validity of PROKLAS in its respective subscales. Firstly, VET-related covariates predicted biochemistry and cell biology scores of students considerably better compared to the covariates related to general secondary school. Secondly, general biological knowledge predicted biochemistry and cell biology scores of PROKLAS. Finally, VET students’ self-efficacy in laboratory tasks and their opportunities to learn laboratory tasks are positively correlated to achievement in PROKLAS. However, we found a similar relationship for self-efficacy in English too.