Chemistry

To Lab notebook or not to lab notebook

Does anyone here have advice on lab notebooks. My students tend to more or less copy the manual or procedure verbatim. I do not see this as a worthwhile exercise. We have not gotten to acceptance of in inquiry based format, which I personally would love so at this time students are not designing how they might solve a given problem. If this were true, I could definitely see an purpose for notebooks. In out current format it seems redundant to copy what is already written. Now I do require lab reports where they analyze data, results etc. These I find very valuable. Any thoughts on this?/

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

Even if you are forced to use cookbook labs, you can still have students keep their record of data and summary of results in a lab notebook. You could also have students write their reports in the lab notebook. Some colleagues of mine and I have had success using the following format...
Abstract
A summary of the entire experiment including results. This should be 5 to 10 sentences
Procedure
A summary in the students our words of the steps used to perform the lab. This should be between 10 to 20 sentences depending on the complexity of the lab.
Data
A table or graph displaying the results.
Discussion of Results
A reporting of the results discussing any apparent trends that might be seen in the data. I call this the "just the facts" section.
Analysis of Results
An explanation of the purpose of the lab or what the data is showing. In this section, the students expounds on what the data might mean.
Conclusion
A summary of the major findings of the lab.

That being said...you need to decide what the purpose of the lab and the system of reporting should be. It really depends on what you want your students to gain from the experience. You do not want it to be more busy work. When you worked in industry, did you use a lab notebook? What was its purpose? Maybe you want to model this for your students...

Give me some more information and we can continue the conversation.

Ruth Hutson
Ruth Hutson
63530 Activity Points

I have implemented chemistry notebooks in my chemistry class and I try to have them put different things in the notebook that require some thought. For example, our first lab was a simple separation of mixture lab and I had them create a flow diagram of their separation procedure in the notebook. I still have them create a lab report, or answer questions about the lab, but I try to make the assignments for the notebook to be ones that require them to think a bit about the topic, whether it is a laboratory topic or a topic covered through lecture or discussion. Today I had them create as many conversion factors as they could on one page of their notebooks for example. (We've working on conversions). I really think notebooks have great utility in the chemistry class, especially if you expand upon what you use them for. When you limit them to just the ABCs of a lab, students become very efficient at the process of filling them out, as you've seen. If you keep them guessing about what they'll need to enter next, you might find that to be less of a problem. (Note: these are high school students. My requirements for college (or my AP students) are more standardized. Note sure if that's good. ) Great topic!

Rebecca Falin
Rebecca Falin
71430 Activity Points

I just finished reading a book called Overcoming Textbook Fatigue, which suggests that students do some sort of reflective journaling after doing labs/experiments. Some prompts that you might give to provide some directions to them are: What did you learn from this experiment? What questions do you still have about this process/these results? What was the most difficult part of the process and why? What new ideas do you have now that you have completed the experiment?

The beauty of having students do reflective journaling after completing experiments is that you do not have to grade it per se, but you can use it as a formative assessment, just to see who understands and how much or how well they understand it.

Rita Hulsman
Rita Hulsman
215 Activity Points

I have never struggled with the idea of implementing lab notebooks until this year. I am at a new school district and I have found there to be many inconsistencies when it comes to record keeping for laboratories in my new school district, where my former school district all teachers were consistent in the science department. Therefore, I am fighting what my students feel is unnecessary. My formatting consists of a guided question and topic research. The students are then required to make their prediction, and diagram and summarize a procedure. I find this step to be extremely important in their understanding of equipment set up, as well as identifying their understanding of safety and disposal. Once in the lab, they are responsible for their data and record keeping, as well as their data manipulation. They are then to present their prediction, methods, and data and conclusion in a formal lab report. I am not sure if this is the best way, but I encourage my students to keep an accurate and current lab notebook so that we are writing our "rough draft" for our lab report. The students that don't keep a very good lab notebook demonstrate this in their lab report, and the students that do keep an accurate lab notebook are able to "plug and chug" their information to quickly synthesize their lab report.

Abigail Houfe
Abigail Houfe
70 Activity Points

How do you all go about grading them? I think these are great ideas and use most of them, but the more I add to their labs the more I grade and the longer it takes to get work back. What do you all do to get around this? A rubric or something? Help?

Jessica Gomez
Jessica Gomez
530 Activity Points

Sometimes I collect all the labs and other times I stress the importance of working together and communicating. When I do stress this I role I die for the group and whoever the die "chooses" that is the notebook I collect. I also try to focus most of my grading on a certain section of the lab to reduce all of the grading. I have heard of teachers creating a rubric that is stapled or taped into the lab notebook, but I have never found one I like.

Chelsea Bender
Chelsea Bender
1295 Activity Points

Actually, when I think about it, I would want only the data, conclusions and related questions. The procedure is easily available. What matters to me however is the they prove their conclusions using the data results they get. Argumentation is the way to go for the NGSS and drawing conclusions has always been an important scientific practice. Adah

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

Adah, how do you go about teaching them argumentation by proving their conclusion through data?

Chelsea Bender
Chelsea Bender
1295 Activity Points

I had the same problem with lab notebooks when I first started using them in my classes - students spending more time copying things from a lab handout than using the notebook to record data, inferences, and conclusions. What helped for me was shifting the way I graded these. Rather than doing a points per section rubric, I graded more holistically - organization, accuracy, and communication of ideas. It is still a work in progress, but I have seen great changes in the work I get from students and how they use their notebooks. I also think it is important that the notebook be used for all aspects of the course, not just lab work. I now ask students to complete a weekly learning log to capture main ideas from the week's lessons, connections between this week and previous learning, and a question about what they are still wondering about on the topic. Then, at the conclusion of a unit, the students write a unit summary reflecting on what they have learned, the evidence that supports their knowing it, and a suggestion/question for how they might extend the study on the topic(s). I think adding these components to their notebooks helped the students start seeing the notebooks as a tool for learning rather than always having to be some record of completion.

Patti Schaefer
Patti Schaefer
2435 Activity Points

Patti, that is a great idea. I think it is very important for students to learn how to write about science and communicate their ideas. I might try to put that in at the end of this unit coming up. :)

Chelsea Bender
Chelsea Bender
1295 Activity Points

Have you considered using the lab notebook for recording data,observations, etc.. It can become their most valuable resource. Don't grade the Journal for content, only for organizational skills, depth of data (use a holistic rubric for this). Then pose short quizzes (on notebook paper) based on the data that the student collected. Let them use their Journals to answer the question(s) using their data to support or justify their answer. Let the questions be just specific enough to require data that all of the student should have gotten. Your LA teachers, using the Common Core framework, can help you develop a rubric that would work with your particular activity/observation/lab. My LA teacher loved doing this and the writing skills of my 6th grade students is increasing daily. It does take time to get used to doing this (develop a good question or set of questions that will be rigorous enough to require their actual data for each activity, but I am not grading Journals as much as I did before and the students are writing more in their Journals knowing that they get to use them for their quizzes. I like what is happening.

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia
42665 Activity Points

I wish we had the ability to "like posts" Maybe there could be a list of most liked posts. If there were I would click like for Patti's post above Thank you so mush I now have a new direction to consider!

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

Although I teach high school science, my writing goals for my students are similar to yours. Thank you for these ideas and strategies.

Megan Rawson
Megan Rawson
50 Activity Points

I think Patti capture the a key problem of student notebooks; if not properly implemented the result is more copying that thinking I have been reading a few post on lab notebooks and like this from Science Buddies http://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/2010/01/lab-notebooks.php The link to Leonardo's (yes that Leonardo) notebook is valuable instruction

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

This is a decision I struggle with each year. I like the idea of everything eying together but I find they are a nightmare to grade. I do require 4 formal lab reports each year. The problem I find w lab nb is that I am not consistent w using them. I get overwhelmed by dueling w 150+ nb. Maybe as I get more experience and can actually plan, then I will use them.

Stacey Arantes
Stacey Arantes
305 Activity Points

I started doing lab books this year and it has been awesome! I also implemented if they had not done the pre-lab (intro, procedure, data table set up, and any prelab questions) that they can't go into lab until its done. I have found they are much more prepared, they aren't losing their data, its mostly organized and I can find their work. I did this with AP (its my first year with AP) too and it has worked like a charm. I am so glad I did!

Kammas Kersch
Kammas Murphy
1990 Activity Points

When I worked in industry, notebooks were kept as a way to document date of invention. Now that the US patent system has moved to a first to file criteria, I wonder what has happened to lab notebooks. Many have suggested that to be effective notebooks need to get students to think. I agree. Someone mentioned a book on textbook fatigue. I will have a look at this. Sounds interesting

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

Pamela- Although this is coming from an elementary teacher's perspective, it may apply to older students as well. I find great value in notebooks when students are asked to summarize what has happened, explain their thoughts, observations, wonderings, "aha" moments, misunderstandings, and so forth. It gives great insight into their thinking and a way to formatively assess them. Not only are they deepening their understanding and solidifying knowledge, but they get additional writing practice, as well. All the best, Naomi Beverly

Naomi Beverly
Naomi Beverly
19130 Activity Points

Naomi: As a secondary teacher I thoroughly agree with you. Adah

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers