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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Experiment: Laboratory Notebook (Lab Notebook)

Because inquiry sounds wonderful but is too time-consuming, this is my concession.  Labs are conducted by questions that they have to answer.  They have to come up with everything after the problem or question.  However, some labs do require more guidance than others.  If possible, lead them with questions.  Some will be frustrated that they don't know what they should do, but this is part of the learning curve.  This should rate rather high on Bloom's taxonomy, including the upper register, requiring creativity, evaluation and analysis.

In general, I like to keep questions simple enough that students should be able to guess what to do next.  I have had success with this format from seventh to twelfth grade.  I also like having students encounter "mistakes" where what they're learning is met with some impediment.  For instance, "Problem:  What is the acceleration of gravity?" will force them to encounter air friction.  Or in chemistry, using something like vinegar with a base to examine why the reaction didn't go as planned (ah, the concentration is important).  As a scientist, error will be their constant companion.  Why do we take it out?

Another advantage is that this allows students to apply the scientific method, again and again.  They will be thoroughly familiar with the procedure by year's end.

The set-up:

  • Problem (question):
  • Hypothesis (possible answer to be explored):
  • Materials (what kinds of materials will you need to test question?):
  • Procedures/Observations (Make a “T”:  what you did on one-half of the page/what you noticed on the other):
  • Calculations (if any):
  • Conclusions (include possible errors, and future experiments):
  • Name/Date:
  • (scribbling, white out, pencil all lose points)
Let me know if you use this and any advantageous modifications you came up with.

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