The development of tools to improve assessment methods is a strategy to improve the teaching/learning process, and therefore improve the quality of teaching.
Practical laboratory sessions are fundamental to any science subject and several approaches are being used to improve the higher education laboratory experience.
The role of lab work has been reviewed by Reid and Shah . Both authors maintain that the number of practical lab hours completed has decreased over time, suggesting the need to carry out more efficient and effective work sessions. Moreover, there is often a lack of interest in practical work among students, as they do not see a clear purpose for the experiments they do. That is why it is important to define the skills that must be developed and determine which assessment tools will apply. With the assessment, a realistic and objective determination must be made as to whether the students know how to carry out certain procedures and specific tasks, beyond whether they are able to get the “correct result.”
The development and assessment of practical skills are, therefore, incredibly important issues that must be addressed. Several authors have indicated that students are more worried about the lab report prepared at the end and the results obtained, than they are about the skills they are using and the processes employed to reach the goals . If lab sessions are assessed with a written exam, the scores obtained are often not based on the demonstration of an individual student’s skill, but rather on overall performance [3,4].
The concept of OSPE is based on the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) and used to reliably assess practical skills. OSPEs consist of a practical lab exam that tests multiple practical skills that students have directly acquired from lab experience.
There are many objectives for implementing this methodology: strengthen the acquisition of the practical skills desired by laboratories, encourage student participation and interest in practical sessions, and improve the assessment and learning method.
Over the last few years, more attention has been paid to objective structured practical examinations (OSPE) in order to improve the assessment of practical skills. In OSPEs students show their practical abilities in a number of lab stations. Each station is designed to assess a particular practical skill or competence. There are several types of stations. Procedural stations assess the acquisition of basic techniques, device handling, and handling reactives and waste. At theoretical stations, students answer questions about fundamental practical knowledge, interpret experimental data, or make certain calculations. At procedure stations, the professor assesses the student’s performance using a series of objective indicators on a checklist  while the student carries out a certain task. These indicators are listed on a document that is the professor’s template. In turn, the student has a student template at each station, describing the task to be carried out and the time available to complete it. In order to add context to this OSPE session, the student is placed in real potential professional situations.
The implementation of this methodology entails an effort by the professor as it involves a review of the practical sessions given in the subjects, a review of practical session plans, agreement of the professors involved in the experience on the selection of practical skills to be assessed and the appropriate indicators to do so. It also involves a great deal of effort to coordinate the resources available with regard to professors as well as space and time. Since it was first described, OSPE has been used as an assessment tool and teaching method  and it use has rapidly risen in practical skills assessments. Positive experiences have been described in the application of this methodology in subjects with practical laboratory sessions such as biochemistry [3,6,7,8], chemistry , and pharmacology .
Objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE) have represented an educational and assessment tool well-established in the clinical disciplines of the Universidad Europea School of Biomedical and Health Sciences since the 2013-2014 academic year . Within this context, we proposed to apply this objective assessment model in subjects with practical lab sessions within the field of Chemistry so that it would be consistent with the proposed academic model. Accordingly, we implemented this methodology in two subjects from the pharmacy bachelor’s degree program in the 2015-2016 academic year. We have subsequently extended the experience to several subjects in the pharmacy and biotechnology bachelor’s degrees with excellent results with regard to students’ acquisition of practical skills.
References Reid and I. Shah, “The Role of Laboratory Work in University Chemistry”, Chemistry Education Research and Practice, vol.8, no.2, pp.172-185, 2007.  B. Kirton, A. Al-Ahmad and S. Fergus, “Using Structured Chemistry Examinations (SChemEs) as an Assessment Method to Improve Undergraduate Students’ Generic, Practical, and Laboratory-Based Skills”, Journal of Chemical Education, vol. 91, pp. 648-654, 2014.  Sharma, S. MKS, D. Jain, D. Shahi and A. Kumar, “Objective Structured Practical Examination (OSPE) as an Assessment Method of Laboratory Practical Skill Sessions in First MBBS Students of Biochemistry: a Research Study in SAIMS, Regional Center of Medical Education, Indore”, Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences, vol. 4, no.8C, pp. 2901-2904, 2016.  Ananthkrishnan, “Objective Structured Clinical/Practical Examination (OSCE/OSPE)” Journal Postgraduate Medicine, vol. 39, no. 2, pp 82-84, 1993. Available from: http://www.jpgmonline.com/text.asp?1993/39/2/82/628.  M. Harden and R.G. Caincross, “Assessment of Practical Skills: The Objective Structured Practical Examination (OSPE)”, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 5, no.2, pp. 187-196, 1980.  Faldessai, A. Aharwadkar and S. Mohatny, “Objective-Structured Practical Examination: A Tool to Gauge Perception and Performance of Students in Biochemistry”, Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, vol. 2, no. 8, pp. 32-37, 2014.  Jaswal, J. Chattwal, J. Kaur, S. Gupta and T. Singh, “Assessment of Learning with Objectively Structured Practical Examination in Biochemistry”, International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research. vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 1-5, 2015.  Krishna Murthy, N., Ashakiran, S., Deena Mendez, M. K., Ganesh, G., & Nandini, T. (2011). OSPE as a Learning & Evaluation Tool for Biochemistry: First Experience. Journal of Clinical and Biomedical Science vol. 1, no. 2, pp 65-69, 2011.  Vishwakarma, K. Introducing Objective Structured Practical Examination as a Method of Learning and Evaluation for Undergraduate Pharmacology. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, vol 48, Issue 7, pp: 47-51, 2016.  M. Harden, M. Stevenson, W.W. Downie and G.M. Wilson “Assessment of Clinical Competence Using Objective Structured Examinations”, British Medical Journal, vol.1, pp. 447-51, 1975.