Thursday, June 10, 2010

Using the Notebook for Lab Investigations

During unit 1 last year, students investigated the relationship between mass applied to a rubber band and length of stretch. Goals for the lab were: practice writing a testable hypothesis, use a ruler to accurately measure length, graph data properly, and communicate a valid conclusion supported by experimental results.

The lab I created did not necessarily fit into the right-side/left-side notebook structure. On the right side of the notebook, students wrote a hypothesis, recorded their data, and illustrated the experimental set-up. After the lab, students took notes on a few key vocabulary terms (independent variable/dependent variable).

This right hand page, which is supposed to be teacher input, was actually a student-written hypothesis, student-collected data, and student-created illustration. The cornell notes on vocabulary and graphing guidelines were the only teacher-driven item on this page.

This specific layout seemed to work well for this lab activity. On the left-hand page, students created a graph of their data and wrote a conclusion.

While this is a type of processing activity, it isn't one of the most creative assignments I've seen for a left-hand page (A colleague of mine has had students write acrostic poems and haikus as concise conclusions to a lab).

I'd like to think through ways to make this particular lab stronger. Modification for next year in physics - students could complete the lab investigation on the left side first, and then on the right side page record teacher-guided notes on whether or not a rubber band obeys Hooke's Law.

This modification raises more questions:
  • Shouldn't students arrive at the conclusion about Hooke's Law on their own, rather than during a teacher-guided lecture?
  • Is there any portion of this lab investigation that should be teacher-directed?
  • Was the notebook set-up for this lab last year a strong way to structure the activity?

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