Special Teaching Tools & Teaching Strategies

Special Teaching Tools:

Descriptive Labs
Partial Lab Reports
Designing Lab Experiments
Graphing Resources
Sample Lab Reports

Teaching Strategies:

Basic Strategies
Collaborative Work
Peer review
E-Learning Systems


Special Teaching Tools

Descriptive Labs

The default lab report in LabWrite is the hypothetical lab, one that is based on establishing and testing a hypothesis. However, there are many labs in which a hypothesis is not appropriate. We call these descriptive labs: the focus is on following a lab procedure and describing the results. Students may be working on lab techniques, determining an unknown, collecting observations on specimens, etc. In lieu of establishing a hypothesis, LabWrite directs students doing a descriptive lab to ask to questions about the lab in the Introduction and to return to those questions in the Discussion.

LabWrite provides the entire sequence of stages for descriptive labs, PreLab, InLab, PostLab, and LabCheck. These guides can be found on the homepages for each LabWrite stage.

Partial Lab Reports

Some lab instructors ask their students to write parts of a lab report instead of a complete report. For instance, students may do the Results in the first lab and Methods and Results in the second lab and so on until they build up to a complete lab report. LabWrite offers a guide to writing lab reports in this way, too.

The key to the LabWrite approach to partial reports, though, is that students write a one-sentence summary of the parts of the report that they are not asked to write in full. This helps students to develop a good understanding of the scientific logic of the whole lab report even if they are asked to write only a partial report. By the time students write their first complete lab report, they are already familiar with the full structure of it.

See Partial Laboratory Report on the PostLab homepage and under Additional Resources at the Resources Homepage.

Designing Lab Experiments

There have been more and more calls recently for allowing students to participate more fully in science by designing their own experiments. Some labs have students build up to an experimental design at the end of the semester or quarter; in other labs, particularly more advanced labs, students design experiments for every lab.

LabWrite encourages student-designed experiments by providing a set of questions that leads students through the critical issues of the scientific method. Each question builds on the responses to the previous questions, from defining the problem to establishing a hypothesis to designing an experiment to test the hypothesis. Students can also find a sample experimental design that they can follow for each of the questions. If your course allows for students to design their own experiments, students can use LabWrite and write their lab reports by choosing Designing Your Own Lab Experiment from each of the LabWrite stages--PreLab, InLab, PostLab, LabCheck--at their Homepages.

Graphing Resources

Oftentimes lab instructors don’t have time to provide the extensive help some students need in using Excel and making graphs. LabWrite’s Graphing Resources fills that need. It provides a user-friendly Excel tutorial and detailed and accessible guides to creating many kinds of graphs. It has guides that lead students through decision trees for determining whether to use tables or graphs and what kinds of graphs are appropriate to the data. It provides a tutorial in designing tables. It even has guides on significant digits and error bars.

Check out these student guides at Graphing Resources.

Sample Lab Reports

Many students, particularly those in introductory labs, ask if they can see a good lab report so that they have a better idea of what is expected of them. LabWrite makes a variety of reports available, each one presented in a straight version and in an annotated version. These sample labs act as valuable learning tools because students can see explicitly how the step-by-step instruction in the LabWrite PostLab guide has been applied to a completed lab report.

There are lab reports from a variety of fields. There are both hypothetical and descriptive reports and reports using quantitative and qualitative data. You can find Sample Lab Reports under Additional Resources in the Resources homepage.


Teaching Strategies

Basic Strategies

Class discussion: This relatively narrow mode of instruction, which combines teacher presentation and student interaction, is useful when there is a concept that students need to learn. There are two basic approaches to leading a class discussion: (1) to present the concept and then ask questions to generate a conversation that clarifies and reinforces the concept and (2) to begin with questions designed to spark a conversation that leads student to an understanding of the concept, which the teacher clarifies and reinforces at the end.

Brainstorming: This more open-ended mode of instruction is appropriate to situations in which there may be no "right" answers. The point is to promote student interaction about a topic by encouraging them to generate many and various responses, delaying judgment on the quality of the responses. Those ideas may be recorded on a blank transparency or on the board and used to find agreement among students or to guide them toward an understanding of an issue.

Small-group activity: This is the most open-ended of these modes of instruction, allowing students to learn from and with each other by engaging in brief or extended assigned projects. The entire class is divided into several small groups (group size may depend on the physical structure of the classroom as well as on the number of students) and each group gets a specific task they have to complete in a given amount of time. Usually, groups will summarize their work and report their experience to the entire class.

Click here for advice on managing small groups.




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