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Guidelines for Laboratory Demonstrators

These are the Guidelines for Laboratory Demonstrators issued by the School of Electronic Engineering for the session 1997-98. These are generally applicable to laboratory modules associated with the B.Eng. (Electronic Engineering) and B.Eng. (Telecommunications Engineering)programmes; it may also be relevant to modules delivered by the School of Electronic Engineering for programmes offered by other DCU schools. In all cases, you should check with the relevant academic staff as to whether, or how, these guidelines apply to any particular laboratory module. These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Undergraduate Laboratory Handbook .


Laboratory work is an integral part of the Undergraduate Programmes operated by the School of Electronic Engineering, with laboratory assignments associated with a number of modules at every stage. This work is considered to be critical to the overall educational experience of each student. This importance is reflected in the status given to laboratory assessment : in general, students must attend all scheduled laboratory sessions, and all related assessments must be completed satisfactorily, in order to progress to a succeeding stage of the Programme, independently of performance in all other assessments.

This document provides guidelines on the role and responsibilities of demonstrators assigned to supervise laboratory work. It includes, inter alia, a discussion of procedures for assessment of laboratory work.

The objective in preparing these guidelines is to assist relevant academic staff in monitoring the operation and quality of the laboratory assignments; to enhance the educational value of these assignments by allowing consistency in their administration throughout the Programme; and to clarify, for demonstrators, the duties which they are expected to carry out.

It is emphasised that these are guidelines only. Each member of academic staff supervising laboratory assignments should adapt or modify the guidelines, as necessary, to suit their specific requirements, and discuss all relevant issues with demonstrators, prior to the commencment of each laboratory module.

Note that it is the responsibility of the academic supervisor to ensure that both students and demonstrators are clearly informed of the relevant information in these guidelines, and of any special requirements or details relating to particular laboratory modules or assignments. In particular, the basis for assessment should be specifically explained, including its role or contribution to the overall assessment of the stage. Where appropriate, it should be stressed that laboratory work is also included in the syllabus for a specified examination. Such information should also, for preference, be included in the printed notes associated with the laboratory assignment(s).

Finally, I would appreciate feedback and comments on the usefulness of these guidelines, both from academic supervisors and from demonstrators themselves.


The general role of the demonstrator(s) is to ensure the smooth running of each individual laboratory assignment. This has a variety of elements, detailed in the following sections.


The demonstrator must ensure that he is familiar with the timetable for the laboratory module, and with the details of each individual assignment in advance of the relevant laboratory session(s). This includes reviewing the notes which will be used by the students. Where necessary or relevant, the demonstrator should also check his understanding of these notes by actually attempting some or all of the required work himself.

The demonstrator should liaise with the academic supervisor, as necessary, to clarify the requirements of each assignment.

It is the reponsibility of the assigned technician to ensure that all required equipment, components, etc. are available and functional prior to the scheduled start of a laboratory session. However, the demonstrator should liaise and cooperate with the technician in implementing this.


Each student is normally required to maintain a logbook relating to each laboratory module. The student must supply the logbook, but it is given to the demonstrator at the end of the first session. Thereafter, the demonstrator is responsible for holding the logbooks, normally issuing them to the students only for the duration of each laboratory session. The logbooks are normally held in a locked press in the relevant laboratory.

In this way, the students are restricted to writing up their reports on laboratory work actually during the laboratory sessions. This is a deliberate policy, decided by the Programme Boards, for a number of reasons:

  • It encourages students in the discipline of maintaining effective records of experimental work while they are carrying it out.
  • It ensures that students do not expend a disproportionate time on writing up logbooks, to the possible detriment of other studies.
  • It improves the validity of assessment based on logbooks, as it ensures that it is primarily the genuine work of each individual student.

In general, logbooks should not be issued outside of scheduled laboratory sessions. However this restriction may be relaxed, in special circumstances. In particular, logbooks might be issued, on request, in the run up to relevant examinations, to allow time for private study. However, the demonstrator continues to be responsible for them, as they may be required for inspection by external examiners etc. Therefore, he should keep a careful record of such issue of log books, and ensure that they are returned; typically this may be achieved by requiring the student to deposit his ID card with the demonstrator.

Demonstrator Attendance

The demonstrator is normally required to be present in the laboratory for the complete duration of the scheduled laboratory session. However, where a session is relatively long (e.g. three hours) then the demonstrator may take a break during the session. The details of this must be agreed between the demonstrator and academic supervisor, in advance. In general, such breaks should not be longer than approximately 10 minutes; and where more than one demonstrator is assigned for a session, they should stagger their breaks so that at least one of them is present at all times.

Student Attendance

It is the responsibility of the demonstrator to keep an accurate record of the attendance of each student.

This involves, firstly, checking and recording, on an attendance list, the presence of each student early in the session. In particular, the demonstrator should identify any students who arrive late for the session, and notify this to the academic supervisor, immediately after the session. The demonstrator should advise any such students of the requirement for punctual attendance at laboratories, and that their names are being reported to the academic supervisor.

Secondly, before a student leaves the session at the completion of the assignment, he is required to personally hand up his log book to the demonstrator; the demonstrator should check that the student has actually written up the assignment in the logbook (but without, at this stage, attempting to mark it), and authenticate this by dating and initialising the logbook. In general, reports which have not been authenticated in this way will contribute zero marks to the assessment of the module.

The demonstrator may permit a student to leave before the end of the session, provided he is satisfied that the student has completed all the required experimental work, and has handed up the logbook as described above.

Finally, the demonstrator should endeavour to monitor the presence of the students at all other times during the session, and keep a record of any unauthorised absences; such absences should be communicated to the academic supervisor immediately after the session.

Where a student misses all or part of a laboratory session, he is required to provide an explanation, including medical evidence where appropriate, to the demonstrator, within one week of the affected session. The demonstrator should keep a careful record of all such information. Where a student fails to provide an explanation, or the demonstrator is doubtful about the adequacy of the explanation, he should inform the academic supervisor immediately.

Technical Supervision

The demonstrator should monitor the students as they carry out their assignments.

This obviously includes responding to queries from students, as they arise; but, at other times, the demonstrator should actively offer assistance and advice, and watch out for students or groups who appear to be having problems or progressing too slowly etc.

The demonstrator should visit each student (or group, as appropriate), in turn, early in the session (perhaps at the same time as checking the attendance list), and question them to ensure that they are familar with the procedure and requirements of their assignment; in particular, he should check that they understand which instruments to use, and how to carry out any required assembly or construction etc.

In the event of faulty equipment or components being identified during the session, the students are required to inform the demonstrator; he should then liaise with the technician to try to immediately replace or repair the faulty items. If such repair or replacement is likely to significantly affect the time available to the students to complete the assignment, the demonstrator should take whatever corrective action is possible--such as combining groups to share equipment, or directing the students to carry out an alternative assignment etc. If no such corrective action is practical, the demonstrator should allow the students to leave the session, record the students and assignment involved, and subsequently advise the academic supervisor so that he can reschedule the assignment.

If it arises that a laboratory assignment is significantly affected by circumstances outside the student's control, the demonstrator should direct the student to document what happened, in the logbook, so that it can be taken into consideration when the logbooks are assessed.

Marking and Assessment

The demonstrator is responsible for marking of student logbooks, under the guidance of the academic supervisor.

The work of marking logbooks may be carried out during the scheduled laboratory sessions, provided this does not compromise the demonstrator's primary duties of actively monitoring and assisting the students as they carrry out the assignments.

In general, in the interests of efficiency, it is recommended that only a sample of the assignments associated with a module should be actually marked--unless, of course, there are only, say, two or three assignments in total, in which case they should all be marked.

The first assignment should always be marked, as soon as possible after the start of the module, to provide early feedback to the students. However, if possible, this should be considered as a ``practice'' for the students, and the mark should be excluded from the final mark awarded for the module. In the case of students who do poorly on this first assignment, the demonstrator should endeavour to discuss this directly with each such student, at the earliest opportunity, and explain the particular respects in which the assignment was unsatisfactory.

The academic supervisor should determine how many further assignments should be marked (possibly only one) and when. He should also decide how the assignment(s) to be marked should be selected; typically, he should direct the demonstrator to select at random from among the assignments completed by each individual student at the specified date.

In the case that the demonstrator finds that an assignment, selected to be marked, was not authenticated as described above, it should be given a mark of zero, and the academic supervisor notified of the circumstances.

The detailed criteria for marking of assignments should be discussed and agreed between the academic supervisor, and the demonstrator, in advance. However, the following general guidelines will usually be applicable:

  • Each assignment should be given an integer mark out of 10.
  • A minimum mark of 5 should be awarded, provided only that the demonstrator is satisfied that the student has made a serious attemptto complete the assignment (even if this attempt was unsuccessful!), and has generally conformed with the guidelines for writing up the logbook.
  • Marks above this level should be awarded based on such factors as whether the assignment was fully completed, whether questions raised in the notes have been adequately answered etc. The written communication skills of the student, as reflected in the quality and professionalism of the logbook, should be explicitly included as part of the assessment.

As soon as possible after the end of the laboratory module, the demonstrator should complete all outstanding marking (if any), and provide the consolidated list of marks, plus all other relevant documentation (attendance lists etc.) to the academic supervisor.