Teaching Scientific Methods of Thinking in Science Labs

( by helping students do thinking activities so they can learn thinking skills )

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

A science lab, where students can do science and think about science,
is an ideal place to teach scientific thinking skills.  How?  By a creative use of
goal-directed thinking activities in classroom labs, teachers can help students
learn some of the thinking skills used by scientists in research labs.

        A SUMMARY
        For a goal-directed coordination of instructional activities and teaching methods, we can:
   • define goals for the desired results of education, for the ideas and skills we want students to learn, and they are motivated to learn,
   • design a curriculum with thinking activities and teaching methods that will provide opportunities for experience with these ideas & skills, and help students learn more from their experiences.

Modes of Thinking-and-Action:  The actions above (defining goals, designing activities & methods) are not chronological steps.  Instead, they are modes of thinking-and-action in a flexible process of educational design, with choices (of what to think about, and what to do) guided by functional principles and strategies.  The modes of designing often overlap in time, and can be "reversed" when, for example, goals inspire activities and activities inspire goals, as explained below in Reversible Inspirations.

Details are important.  The outline-of-ideas above (about goals, ideas & skills, thinking activities, teaching methods, educationally functional experiences,...) is not original — the ideas are common strategies for teachers — so if these ideas are to offer any practical benefits for improving education, the basic outline must be supplemented with details for "how to do it."  There are two ways to see the details:
    A good starting place is a powerpoint overview that is a highly condensed executive summary of this page, which is very useful for busy people with too much to do and not enough time;  because the overview contains only the most important details, with minor details stripped away, you can see the “big picture” more quickly and easily.   And you can explore a wider range of ideas by using my links-page, Ideas for Lab Education.
    Or, for more depth but still focusing on the major ideas, the next three sections (until the end of this “yellow box”) examine some practical development-and-application details for the main ideas above:  How can we use Thinking Activities and Teaching Methods in Designing a Goal-Directed Curriculum for Labs ?

        Learning Activities
        Any experience that stimulates thinking is a thinking activity, and is also a learning activity.  If learning activities are designed to perform specific functions in goal-directed instruction, they are Aesop's Activities.
        Although thinking activities can help students learn both science concepts and thinking skills, this page will focus on the creative-and-critical scientific thinking skills (the scientific methods of thinking, or simply scientific methods) that are used by scientists.
        During a thinking-and-learning activity, students can think and do, listen and talk, read and write.  How can you find thinking activities?
        begin where you are:  As a starting point, when you examine your current labs you'll discover a wide variety of interesting mental challenges for students.  For example, Thinking Skills in Chemistry Labs describes thinking activities in general chemistry labs that help students learn observation-based inferences, hypothetico-deductive logic, mathematical data analysis, experimental design, the logical-and-social process of science, and more.
        new activities & labs:  Of course, you can supplement current lab-activities with new activities.  For bigger changes, you can invent brand new labs.
        Educational Collaboration:  For either of these, for developing new activities (within old labs) or whole new labs, it will be more time-efficient to learn from others — by reading education journals in your field, networking in discussion forums, or in other ways — to find labs that will provide opportunities for students to learn some of the ideas-and-skills that are your goals.
        Reversible Inspirations:  The top-of-page summary describes a process of interaction between different aspects of curriculum design, including educational goals, thinking activities, and teaching methods.  You can begin with goals and then ask "what activities would help students learn these ideas and skills?"  And you may find that thinking activities (in your own labs, or elsewhere) inspire you to say "this activity can help students learn       , and learning this will become a goal," and then you look for other ways to teach this goal.  Or you see lab-exam problems (in a journal, forum, or test bank) and you then decide that the skills needed to solve these problems would be worthy goals to use in building a lab curriculum.
        A Method for Designing Instruction:  The related aspects of instruction (goals, activities, methods) are modes of thinking, not sequential steps.  As with Scientific Method — whose name leads us to ask "Does a method really exist?" — in design the “method” is not a rigid pathway with choreographed steps, instead it's a flexible process of creative-and-critical improvisation, a creatively rational wandering.
        Contexts for Learning:  As part of conventional labwork, students can do activities that include analyzing data (e.g. by using statistics, making graphs on paper or computer, searching for patterns, thinking about sources of error), responding (in discussions or writing) to questions about labwork, and studying similar scientific work done in history or current events.  Or lab-related thinking activities can occur in other contexts, such as detective challenges, case studies, computer games, research using internet or library, or problems ranging from easy to difficult, simple to complex, solvable by known methods or requiring innovative improvisation.  For an imaginative teacher who is creative in planning activities, the possibilities are numerous, spanning a wide variety of contexts.

Thinking Activities are also produced by Teaching Methods (below) that use reflection requests, student responses, inquiry activities, and evaluation activities.

        Teaching Methods
        Our teaching methods — which are an important part of student experiences — can be viewed as one aspect of thinking-and-learning activities.
        By using a reflection request, a teacher can direct students' attention to “what can be learned from an experience,” thus encouraging them to think about what they are doing, what they can learn, and why they should want to take advantage of this valuable opportunity.  A reflection request can help students improve the quality of their concentration by moving them from a minimally-aware mode (of just “going through the motions”) to a more-aware mode that is more effective for learning.  In this way a teacher can help students convert their potential opportunities for learning into actual experiences of learning, to "help students learn more from their experiences."
        Thinking about the Process of Problem Solving:  Two teaching tools that can be used to focus attention on opportunities-for-learning are my related models of Scientific Method and Design Method.
        Timing of Requests, for Action & Planning:   Action – a teacher can do things that encourage awareness-increasing reflection before a lab activity, during it, or after it.   Planning – a reflection request can be pre-planned, or it can be improvised during lab when a teacher makes real-time decisions based on observations of what is happening.
        Two Request-Styles, Intrinsic and Extrinsic:  A reflection request can be intrinsic, when we ask students to do an activity that forces them to focus their attention-and-thinking in ways that help them learn, because this is required while doing the activity.  Or a reflection request can be extrinsic, when a teacher — by asking a question, making a comment, or in other ways — calls attention to a learning opportunity that otherwise might have been missed.    {more about reflection requests}
        A common type of activity is a student response (such as asking or answering questions, showing data & calculations, or solving mini-problems) written in a lab report, or discussed with the teacher.  In this grid, each student group does four discussion-activities throughout the lab, and when these are finished (Group C is almost there!) they can leave the lab:
   Student Activities in Lab 
 Students   Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4 
 Group A  X X    
 Group B  X X    
 Group C  X
 Group D  X X    
 Group E  X      
For activities with a response by students, you can ask them to discuss (listen-and-talk) or write, or do some of each.  Compared with lab reports, generally I've found discussions to be more educationally effective and more fun, and so have students.  Why?  I want to provide high-quality feedback that will help students learn, and this is easier with verbal feedback (detailed, customized in two-way conversation, and immediate, when students are thinking about their actions and ideas), compared with written feedback (delayed for too long, with much less detail) that also requires lots of extra time for the teacher.  But even though I generally prefer discussions, some responses are better in writing, so the "some of each" option can be useful, and to help decrease the problems of pacing that occur with discussion-only labs, you can combine discussions with reports.
        Teachers can also improve students' awareness by occasionally shifting their perspective from small-scale to larger-scale, by "helping students understand how their actions fit into the ‘big picture’ of Scientific Method, how individual thinking skills perform a useful function in the coordinated thinking process of science," as explained in Using Scientific Method for Education.

        Opportunities for inquiry activities occur whenever inadequacy of knowledge (of concepts and/or skills) produces a situation where students “don't know what to do next” so they must think on their own, and are allowed to think.
        These opportunities for inquiry can be accidental (when a teacher doesn't realize that students are struggling) or the obstacles can be intentional, designed into a lab as challenges that let students practice existing skills or learn new skills.  Skilled methods of teaching are essential for high-quality inquiry experiences because, as in a well-written mystery story, with inquiry the level of difficulty should be adjusted so it's “just right” and students won't be bored (if it's too easy) or overly frustrated (if it's too difficult).  Teachers can adjust the level of inquiry-difficulty, so it's not too low or too high, by modifying a lab's intrinsic difficulty (what students are asked to do) or its actual difficulty (by improving students' ability to cope with a lab, by helping them prepare before lab and/or coaching them during lab).    more about inquiry activities

        Teachers can evaluate students' working knowledge — their ideas (what they know) and skills (what they can do) — by using evaluation activities that typically include assignments and exams.  Questions about testing (why, how, when) are an important part of designing labs.    more about evaluation activities

A prominent educator, David Perkins (bio & educational theory), claims that "people learn much of what they have a reasonable opportunity and motivation to learn."  In Thinking Activities and Teaching Methods the focus has been opportunity, and the section below begins with motivation before turning to goal-directed coordination of opportunities.

        Designing a Goal-Directed Curriculum for Labs

        Educational Goals and Student Motivations
        The introductory summary of this page is quoted from Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education which begins with analogy between Aesop's Fables (designed to teach lessons about life) and Aesop's Activities (designed to teach ideas-and-skills for life).  Because improving student motivation is important for improving student learning, in its first section — Define Goals so we're aiming for Personally Useful Education — the focus is on motivation:
goal-directed teaching is more effective when students are motivated by their own desires for goal-directed learning, and educational goals are "the ideas-and-skills we want students to learn, and they are motivated to learn."  When we-and-they agree, so teachers and students are sharing similar goals, education becomes a teamwork effort with an “us” feeling, and students are motivated ... by a forward-looking expectation that what they are learning now will be personally useful in their future... so they can improve their own lives.
This is just Part 1, with an exploration of motivations continuing in Part 2 - Educational Goals and Student Motivations.

        Goal-Directed Coordination of Activities
        The page-summary outlines a simple plan for effective education:  define goals, and develop activities to help students achieve these goals.  Well-designed instructional activities promote educationally useful experiences that help students learn the ideas-and-skills that are the educational goals.
        A skillful coordination of lab activities will increase their mutually supportive synergism, thus improving their overall effectiveness.  Some activities will help students prepare for others, and the ideas-and-skills learned in early activities will be reinforced by later experiences, and so on.
       Because a coordinating of lab activities will be more effective if the structure of instruction is understood more accurately and thoroughly, one useful tool is...

        Integrative Analysis of Instruction — A Strategy for Understanding the Structure of Instruction
        When students do activities, they gain experience.  Opportunities for educationally useful experience can be analyzed using an activities-and-goals table, as shown below, with student ACTIVITIES-and-EXPERIENCES in the top row and GOALS in the left column.  If an activity will help students achieve a goal, the table-cell for this combination of activity-and-goal has a "yes".
        Of course, "yes" does not tell the whole story.  A table with larger cells could show more details, such as the differences between a student's experience with Goal 5 (Analysis of Random Errors) in Activities A, B, C, E, G, and H, since in each activity the details of doing-and-learning will be different.
        In this table some of the activities and goals, but not all, are based on my experiences of helping students learn Thinking Skills in Chemistry Labs.  For example, activities for the goal of Observation-Based Logic are the labs involving Competing Reactions (this is Activity A *), Reaction Videos (this is D), Takers & Givers (F), and Alcohol in Wine (G).
        * Quoting from the lab about Competing Reactions, "Students can learn about ideas (limiting reactants,...) and the thinking skill of using observation-based logic to connect macro-level observations (bubbles, blue color,...) with micro-level events (interacting ions, atoms, and molecules) and their symbolic representations (as chemical symbols and reaction equations)."

    Thinking Activities that promote Student Experiences  
Educational Goals
A B C D E F G H I    evaluated? 
 1. Observation-Based Logic 
 yes       yes     yes  yes        yes 
 2. Hypothetico-Deduction
yes     yes yes yes yes  yes   yes    yes
 3. Calibration Logic
  yes   yes   yes yes   yes   yes
 4. If-Then Analysis of Errors 
yes  yes  yes    yes      yes     yes
 5. Analysis of Random Errors 
yes yes  yes    yes     yes  yes      yes
 6. Random vs Systematic
yes   yes   yes     yes     yes
 7. Does it matter?
     yes    yes     yes     yes
 8. Designing Experiments
yes   yes yes   yes yes yes yes   yes
        How long is an activity?  This varies.  A mini-activity may be over in a minute, while a coherent mega-activity (composed of related mini-activities or a variety of mini-activities) can last for an entire lab (spanning hours) or even several labs.   /   While making the table above, I was imagining that each column was a mega-activity, an entire chemistry lab.  For example, Activity F is the "Takers & Givers" lab, and the experiences that help students learn about four goals (1, 2, 3, 8) occur sometime during this 3-hour lab.  But instead of just one column (F) these experiences could be split into four activity-columns (F1, F2, F3, F4) with each being useful for one goal.  Because these activities-and-goals can be accurately represented in either 1 column or 4 columns, obviously a definition of activity isn't rigid.  When you're defining activities and goals, you can view them in whatever ways will help you understand and improve the structure of your instruction.
        In the table above, proficiency with every goal is tested using some kind of evaluation activity.  Although this complete coverage isn't necessary — because a goal can be emphasized by teachers, learned by students, and highly valued by both, even if this goal is not tested — you may find it educationally useful.
        Compared with this section, another description of integrative analysis (in Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education) is less specific because it doesn't use actual labs to illustrate, but is more detailed.  It ends with a summary of benefits:
In a table, the visual organization of information can improve our understanding of the functional relationships between activities, between goals, and between activities and goals.  This knowledge about the structure of instruction can help us coordinate — with respect to types of experience, levels of sophistication, and contexts — the activities that help students achieve goals for learning.  The purpose of a carefully planned selection-and-sequencing of activities is to increase the mutually supportive synergism between activities, to build a coherent system for teaching all of the goals, to produce a more effective environment for learning.
Table of Contents:
Some aspects of the essential ideas above (in the main body of this page) are
explored in the supplementary sections below, which you can read in any order.
• Student Responses — Pros & Cons of Discussion-Based Labs (with no reports)
• Thinking Activities — Evaluation Activities and Hybrid Two-Response Labs
plus an appendix — My Histories with Scientific Method and Lab Education
& More about Inquiry & Lab-Grade Weighting & Lab Questions for Exams


        Pros and Cons of Discussion-Only Labs (with no grading of written reports)
        a personal history:  In 1991, when I was a graduate student working as a Teaching Assistant, I tried an experiment for the second semester of a first-year course in General Physics.  Instead of the traditional method used in the first semester, with students writing a report that wasn't graded until the lab was over, we converted the writing into talking.  To prepare for a Discussion-Based Lab, I split a lab into parts and defined a discussion activity for each part, then drew a grid for activities-and-groups to organize the lab, as described earlier in Teaching Methods.
        current flexibility:  Although this section is about labs with only discussions (with no written reports), later we'll look at the benefits of combining discussions with lab reports.

        More Fun and More Learning
        How did my students like these labs, with only discussions?  When I asked them for anonymous feedback, almost all said that, compared with their traditional graded reports during the first semester of physics, in our discussion-based labs they had more fun and learned more.  This was a two-win result for them, and also for me.  I enjoyed my pre-lab preparation (to plan response-activities) and our in-lab discussions, and I learned from both.  I could also avoid the post-lab grading of lab reports, which I did not enjoy.
        Students generally learned more because, as explained in Teaching Methods, I was able to provide thought-stimulating verbal feedback that was "detailed, customized in two-way conversation, and immediate, when students were thinking about their actions and ideas," instead of written feedback (on their lab reports) that had much less detail, and was delayed for too long.  The discussions were also fun, and the social-and-intellectual interactions of students (with each other and with me) contributed to a feeling of community in the class, and improved teacher-student relationships.

        Teacher versus Judge — Is there a tension?
        In many ways the roles of teacher and judge are mutually supportive in education, as explained in Evaluation Activities and Student Motivations.
        But there are some reasons for tensions.  An essential benefit of discussions is the immediate detailed feedback I can give students.  This was easier in discussion-only labs due to my policy of no grading, because I could focus my total attention on teaching (rather than judging) and students could focus on learning rather than being judged.  Because I was only a teacher (and not also a judge) I could ask and answer any question freely, thinking only about what was best for helping students learn.  When I decided to withhold information — for example, by asking a question instead of giving a direct answer — my only motivation was pedagogical, and the purpose was to challenge students with an inquiry activity to make them think, to let them play a more active role in their own learning.  I never had to worry about whether I was being unfair by giving too much information to one group (but not others) about a question that later would be used to assign a grade on their lab report.*  This was a liberating experience for me, and was educationally beneficial for my students, who were similarly free to ask any questions they wanted, without fear that they would get a lower grade because their questions showed a lack of understanding.
        * For example, if I see Joe and Sue (working as lab partners) do something wrong, should I provide coaching (with questions, hints, and explanations) that will help them understand what they were doing wrong and how to do it better?  Or should I remain silent and let them continue doing it wrong, so I can take points off on their lab report?  As a judge, silence is appealing because it's fair to students who won't get my personal warning.  But for Sue and Joe the result of silence is that they won't get feedback until a week later (when they see points lost on their lab report) and by this time their teachable moment is far in the past, and they probably won't think much about the experience or learn from it.  My instincts as a teacher are to teach NOW, during the lab while they're thinking, deciding, and doing, but if I'm also a judge this is more difficult and my effectiveness as a teacher is diminished.

Although these sub-sections about judging, above and below, may seem to imply a competition of discussions-versus-reports, creative strategies for using “the best of both” are explored in combining discussions with lab reports.

        Evaluation of Discussions — thereby treating discussions like Miniature Oral Exams
        Converting discussions into miniature oral exams — by evaluating the quantity and quality of each student's contributions during discussions — is one option in a list of evaluation activities where, in the first set of options (the grading of lab reports and discussions), I ask “should we grade discussions?”
        A reason to say “yes” is because evaluations will motivate students to impress the teacher (so they can get a high grade) by investing more effort in preparing for discussions and then participating more actively, and these thinking activities will help them learn.
        But a reason to say “no” is because a combination of teaching-and-judging might decrease the "liberating experience" described above.  I would be distracted from teaching because I would be simultaneously thinking about how many points to give each student.  And students might not "feel free to ask any questions they wanted, without fear" if they thought this might lower their grades.
        Another reason for “maybe not” is the question of reliable accuracy in grading.  A high-quality oral exam is an excellent opportunity for a teacher to discover the depth of what a student knows, and how well they can think with what they know. (oral exams: pros & cons)  But in a group setting, making accurate evaluations for every student will be more difficult due to social interactions.*  And it could be difficult, especially when labs are being taught by multiple TAs (who have a wide range of skills), to avoid an information overload caused by the requirement to be both teacher and judge, to teach effectively while also assigning an accurate grade for every student.  Also, problems with pacing would be amplified because a teacher should allow enough time for each student to show what they know, instead of just being satisfied if someone (either student or teacher) talks about the most important ideas.
        * In a group discussion, some students can appear to know more than others (even when they don't) if they talk more frequently, and with more confidence, due to their personality and their skills in the art of discussion.  Although discussion techniques are a valuable skill in life, including science, a teacher who wants to evaluate other ideas-and-skills will have to take into account the students' differences in discussion skills.
        In addition to grading discussions, student performance in other lab activities also can be graded.
        A grading of lab discussions (or other lab activities) is an option to consider, and it may work well for some teachers.  You can weigh the pros & cons, and then make a decision.

        Quality of Teachers
        In a lab where discussions are emphasized, the experience of students depends on their interactions with the teacher, so...  what happens if they get a teacher with less ability, experience, or motivation?  This question is especially relevant for a large college course with labs taught by Teaching Assistants (TAs) who are graduate students.
        I'll begin with my own experience, to explain why Discussion-Based Labs (DB) make interactions easier.  I enjoy talking about ideas, but if there is no specific reason to talk with students in lab, so everything depends on my social intuitions and skills in “working the room,” sometimes it's difficult to find a balance between ignoring students and bothering them with too much attention.  But the organizing structure of a DB-grid automatically schedules conversations throughout the lab, and we enjoy talking about ideas that are interesting and educational.
        Consider four types of TAs.  Two types will do fine with DB:  • those who, like myself, enjoy talking about ideas and can find a “balance” more easily with DB;  • TAs who are socially fluent will have a great time, and so will their students.  There might be concerns about using DB with two other types — • shy TAs who are not comfortable with talking, even about ideas, and  • foreign TAs who are not skilled in speaking English — but during the semester both types of non-fluent TAs (shy and foreign) will improve their social and linguistic skills due to their experiences in DB labs.  Although in non-DB labs these TAs might tend to avoid conversations, the structure of DB naturally leads to interactions that will help them increase their skills with listening and talking, which will improve their graduate school experience and their overall professional (and personal) development.
        To achieve consistently high quality of teaching in labs, effective TA preparation is essential, especially for TAs who begin with a lower level of verbal comfort or fluency.  For all TAs, a key idea is that just “knowing your stuff” (due to being prepared) will help you feel better and teach better.  And all TAs will benefit from using strategies that encourage students to talk more freely during discussions.  In fact, these student-stimulating skills may be especially useful for talkative TAs who must convince themselves that they should not dominate the discussions.  An equalizing factor, to help counterbalance the advantages of fluency, occurs when a TA who is less fluent produces a good atmosphere and (due to having less competition from a talkative TA) their students contribute more during discussions.
        In a course with multiple TAs, will all students have teachers who are equally skilled?  No.  There will be variations, but these will occur in lab with or without DB, and also in their discussion sections.  These differences are unavoidable.  The main goal should not be consistency, which can never be fully achieved.  It is more important to ask, “What type of labs will promote the greatest good for the greatest number?”

        Problems with Pacing
        A lab with scheduled discussions has an imbalance of supply-and-demand due to unequal numbers, because there is one teacher and many students.  But here are some strategies for coping with this potential problem, so its impact as an actual problem will be reduced:
    • fewer groups for discussions:  The numerical imbalance can be reduced by asking students to organize themselves into super-groups.  For example, if students are doing labwork in pairs they go to a student discussion area and begin to discuss a scheduled topic;  after 3 or 4 pairs are in this students-only discussion, they either arrive at a consensus (by persuasion if necessary) or an understanding of their disagreements.  Then they have a students-and-teacher discussion.  By using this method, in a 22-student class instead of 22 discussions (with individuals) or 11 (with pairs) there can be 3 discussions, each with approximately 6-8 students.   /   Of course, flexibility is possible.  Due to labwork timings, instead of each supergroup having 6-8 students the splits might be 6-12-4.   Or differences in group size can be planned;  in a lab with five questions (A B C D E), perhaps A is discussed with all 22 students, B, D, and E in groups of 6-8 students, and C separately with each of the 11 pairs.   And plans can be changed;  if you're running out of time in a lab session, some discussions (C, D, or E) can be done with larger groups, maybe with the whole class.
    • better skills:  Teachers can improve their skill in leading discussions, by controlling the length (not too short or too long) to make better use of time so all discussions will fit into a lab session, and (if they initiate conversations, as might be the plan in C above) working the room more skillfully, starting and ending conversations quickly and smoothly.
    • productive waiting:  When students must wait for the teacher to finish discussions with other students, they can prepare for (and maybe start doing) the next part of their labwork, or talk (about the lab, or their next exam, or other things in life) which helps build student-student relationships and community.  It will be useful to explain the numerical supply-demand situation, and apologize for the inconvenience, but suggest ways for students to use the waiting time productively.  When doing this, I use the analogy of waiting for a physician;  you know that usually you'll have to wait, so it's best to just accept this and decide to use the time productively.  Most students seem to have a good attitude about waiting.  But in some sections a few students may become visibly impatient because they want to leave the lab (permitted in college but not K-12) ASAP so they can use their time any way they want, and unfortunately their attitude can affect other students;  it may be worthwhile to have a private conversation with these students.
    • improved timings:  Design each lab so discussions are evenly spaced throughout it (not delayed until near the end) and productive activities are always available.
    • fewer topics for discussion:  The suggestions above can help reduce problems with pacing, but will not eliminate them.  Another approach is to design hybrid labs that combine discussions (for some questions) with a written report (for other questions).  This will reduce the problem of pacing by decreasing the number of discussions, and by adding another productive activity (writing the report) that students can do while waiting.  Also, the quality of discussions may increase because the pacing can be more leisurely.  And teachers will have more time to observe what students are doing in lab, interacting with them informally and responding to their spontaneous questions.

        Evaluation Activities and Hybrid Labs
        In most classrooms, the working knowledge of students — their ideas (what they know) and skills (what they can do) — is evaluated using evaluation activities that typically include assignments and exams.
        Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education includes an organized summary of ideas about the “why, what, and how“ of evaluation.  I suggest opening this idea-summary in a new window (by clicking here) and reading it now.  Then, by resizing and rearranging windows, you can refer to it while you're reading this section:

        Evaluation Activities and Student Motivations
        In the idea-summary, the first “why” for evaluation is because "a high score on an exam, or any other evaluation activity, is an extrinsic reward that will motivate students who want a good grade."  This includes most students, "although they also will study for other reasons: intrinsic, personal, and interpersonal."  With a skillful design of instruction, which includes its evaluation methods, the components of motivation will be mutually supportive because there is a matching of goals with evaluations that "measure appropriate knowledge by testing ideas-and-skills that are the educational goals, and in a well designed course have been the focus of teaching and learning."  If goals are wisely selected, and persuasion (with words and actions) increases motivation, and if evaluations are well-matched with goals, when students study for an evaluation-exam they will be confident that "what they are learning now will be personally useful in their future... so they can improve [the quality of] their own lives."  When instruction combines all of these — wise goal selection, effective motivational persuasion, and matching of goals with evaluations — there will be mutual support between motivations due to extrinsic rewards (exam scores) and personal rewards (quality of life) so students can have both.
        Another interaction between motivational components occurs when students want to impress others (friends, family,...) by doing well in evaluation activities, so these external rewards contribute to interpersonal rewards.

        Evaluation Activities for Determining Grades — Assignments & Exams
        For labs, evaluation of a student's ideas-and-skills can be done in many ways:
    • When a thinking activity in lab requires a student response we can ask students to respond by talking (in a discussion) or writing (in a lab report) and both can be graded.  But should we grade discussions?
    • During lab a teacher can observe and evaluate the quality of students' work, such as their lab techniques or their ability to follow directions in a lab manual or to cope with inquiry challenges that require improvising.
    • Labs can include built-in accountability for work that is qualitative (identifying an unknown chemical,...) or quantitative (determining the concentration of a solution,...);  the closer a student comes to the correct answer, the more points they get.
    • An exam can be small (as in a weekly pre-lab or post-lab quiz, with responses written in class or typed online) or large (if part of a midterm or final exam is about labs, or if an entire exam has only lab questions*);  students can respond by writing or typing (in a traditional exam) or (in an oral exam) by talking.   {* When a lab is closely integrated with a course — by designing labs to fit the course content, or using the course to reinforce lab goals, or both — exams can be designed to test the ideas-and-skills that are being learned in labs. }   This page ends by looking at Difficulties in Writing Lab Exams to test Higher-Level Thinking Skills.
        Teachers can combine the results from one or more of these evaluation activities, and maybe others, to determine a lab grade.  Occasionally, labs are the only focus in a course, so a lab grade is the course grade.  But in most courses, lab grades are only one input, among many, into the overall course grade;  in this situation, how much should lab grades be weighted?

        Mutual Influences between Evaluation Activities and Instructional Design
        Your instructional design — your educational goals (defining what students should learn) that lead to instructional activities (giving students opportunities to learn) and teaching methods — should guide your evaluation activities, so "there is a matching of goals with evaluations that measure appropriate knowledge."
        But the influence is reversed when evaluation activities inspire goals and activities, which occurs when lab-exam problems inspire you to "decide that the skills needed to solve these problems would be worthy goals [and thinking activities] to use in building a lab curriculum," as explained in Reversible Inspirations.
        And your design of instruction can be guided by feedback from evaluations.  If an exam shows that many students (*) cannot solve problems requiring a mastery of some ideas-and-skills you have been “teaching” in labs, you should ask “how can we revise our instruction so it will help these students learn more effectively?”   {* How is "many" defined?  Usually you want some exam questions that some students cannot answer, to avoid a ceiling effect.  But if the number of failures is unexpectedly large, after the difficulty of a question has been considered, this may indicate a weakness of instruction that should inspire a revision of instruction.

        Hybrid Labs that combine Scheduled Discussions and Lab Reports
        This section looks at the pros and cons of discussion-only labs (with no written reports) and reports-only labs (with no scheduled discussions), and the advantages of hybrid labs that combine oral discussions with written reports in a “best of both” design of instruction.

        Labs with Only Discussions
       The Pros and Cons of Discussion-Only Labs describes more fun and more learning (positive), teaching without judging (positive), quality of teachers (neutral?), and problems with pacing (negative), and here is another negative:
        At the end of a discussions-only lab, an activities-and-groups grid that is totally filled with Xs provides no basis for distinguishing between students when determining lab grades.  This could be a negative in two ways.  First, it decreases the grades-based component of motivation.  Second, it eliminates one input into a lab grade.  The effects of these negatives can be reduced by using other evaluation activities such as pre-lab and post-lab online testing, and lab questions on exams.  Or discussions can be graded, although there are some reasons to avoid this option.

        Labs with Only Written Reports
        When students report their thoughts in writing (by recording observations, showing calculations-and-results, answering questions,...) this can be a valuable thinking activity that leads to learning, if the assignments (what we ask them to write) are well designed.
        But a disadvantage of graded reports is the lower quality of feedback — because it's delayed and has less detail — compared with scheduled discussions.  Of course, asking students to write reports does not mean “no discussions are allowed” is the official lab policy, and improvised conversations still occur, especially those begun by students, and (of course) anything related to lab safety.  But it does limit the freedom of discussion because when an idea will be graded in a report, a teacher who wants to be fair will not discuss this idea with some students but not others, as explained in Teacher versus Judge.  And when discussions are not scheduled during a lab, they are less likely to occur.
        Also, post-lab grading of reports is unpleasant and it wastes a lot of time.  Well, that's my opinion, based on a large amount of personal experience.  It's the only part of being a TA that I have not enjoyed, because it has a very low ratio of satisfaction/time.  With most report-grading I've invested a large amount of time but have been rewarded with only a small amount of satisfaction as a teacher, mainly because my efforts were not very effective in helping students learn ideas and skills (due to the delayed-and-minimal feedback), but also because with reports it takes a lot of time to make a small difference in a student's course grade, compared with quick-and-easy decisions about points on quizzes and exams.  But maybe the grading experience can improve, if we...
        Design for Grading:  We should try to design all written responses (what we ask students to write in their lab reports, and how) in a way that will make the process of grading quicker and easier, less unpleasant and more pedagogically rewarding, to increase the ratio of satisfaction/time.

        Grading Student Performances during Lab
        For a teacher who cares about helping students learn, a science lab is a complex, challenging multi-tasking environment.  In a discussion-based lab, this complexity can be stimulating and enjoyable for a teacher and for students.  By contrast, with some grading rubrics a lab teacher must subjectively evaluate-and-grade everything that is happening (it's like simultaneously grading dozens of essay assignments, while also trying to teach) and "put a number on each assignment" for each student, which requires dozens of low-resolution decisions (by asking "is their performance a 0, 1, 2, or 3?") for a class of students whose range of performances is a smooth continuum, without clear dividing lines between a 0, 1, 2, and 3.  I don't seem to be naturally skilled at doing this multi-tasking of "judging while teaching" and in this context my grading experiences have been unpleasant and unrewarding, with "a very low ratio of satisfaction/time" compared with my high ratio for discussion-based labs.   { Or in my grading of non-essay quizzes or exams, which I find much easier.  Although grading quizzes & exams isn't my favorite part of teaching, unlike grading lab reports I don't think "it wastes a lot of time" and it isn't "the only part of being a TA that I have not enjoyed." }
        "Evaluation of Discussions — thereby treating discussions like Miniature Oral Exams" has inherent disadvantages, as described in Teacher versus Judge Is there a tension? where I explain why a tension often exists.  And there is more tension for some teachers (like me) than for others, for those who seem to be more comfortable with making dozens of subjective decisions about grading while they are teaching.

        Hybrid Labs that Combine Discussions with Reports
        Instead of using labs with only-discussions or only-writing, we can combine the best of both, by designing labs with two modes of response: talking/listening in discussions, and writing in a report.
        What are the relationships between discussion topics and report topics?  They can be independent, or almost identical (as when the report applies an already-discussed skill in a new context), or anything in-between, as when a discussion is used to decrease the level of inquiry difficulty but without actually showing a solution strategy.  Here are some benefits of a hybrid combination:
    • Optimization:  As explained in the initial description of student responses, sometimes "verbal feedback (detailed, customized in two-way conversation, and immediate, when students are thinking about their actions and ideas)" is especially valuable, but "some responses are better in writing."  In our design of hybrid labs, we can try to optimize the advantages of both modes when we choose the best mode-of-response for each activity.
    • Fairness:  Teachers and students know that some topics will be discussed, and others will be in the report, when these distinctions are clarified in the lab manual or in other ways.*  If discussions about a topic are planned, and if the content is consistent (if for each student group all essential ideas are explained, by a student if possible, or by the teacher if necessary), then a teacher will not be unfair by "discussing this idea with some students but not others" because it's discussed with everyone, so most of the potential tensions of teacher-versus-judge disappear.   /   * The main topics are pre-defined as being open (for scheduled discussions) or closed (so students can have full responsibility for these in a report), and during lab the teacher will decide whether other topics (such as questions asked by students) are open, semi-open, or closed for discussion.
    • Pacing:  My exploration of discussion-based possibilities began when I "converted [all of] the writing into talking" but this produced problems with pacing.  Moving some of the talking back into writing can make pacing easier by decreasing the time required for discussions,* and increasing the amount of productive work (which now includes writing reports) that students can do while waiting.   /   * With fewer discussions each one can be more relaxed, due to the decreased constraints on timing.  And the teacher will have more free time (without discussions) to just observe what is happening in lab, which can be useful whether or not "observing and evaluating the quality of students' work" is one of your evaluation activities.

        Hybrid Labs in a Larger Context
        In hybrid labs the "hybrid" refers to combining discussions with reports, but the concept of educationally effective combining should be extended to other lab-related activities.  The use of post-lab evaluation activities (such as exam questions about what is being learned in lab) will motivate students to view discussions & reports as opportunities to learn ideas-and-skills that will be used for later testing, online and in writing.  Of course, all of this can be part of a teacher's motivational persuasion about the personal value of improved thinking skills & thinking processes.
        And we should keep our eyes on the big picture summarized at the beginning of this page"define goals for ideas & skills" and then design labs with "thinking activities and teaching methods that will provide opportunities for experience with these ideas & skills, and help students learn more from their experiences."



My Personal Histories with Scientific Method & Lab Education

        Scientific Method (and Design Method)
        I began to be fascinated by scientific thinking and “scientific method” while I was a graduate student in Chemistry at the University of Washington (UW-West in Seattle) when I discovered An Introduction to Scientific Research by E. Bright Wilson.  I continued learning about creative-and-critical thinking in problem solving by reading and writing about these skills, teaching them at the UW Experimental College and in one-to-one conversations while tutoring students in science & math.  In the late-1980s I wrote a "tools for problem solving" physics textbook, although its focus was the tightly constrained word problems of textbooks, not the open-ended life problems encountered in science and (especially) in design.  My enthusiastic fascination with scientific thinking (and overall strategies for using it) continued at the University of Wisconsin (UW-Midwest in Madison), first as a graduate student in History of Science, and then in Curriculum & Instruction (specializing in Science Education) where my PhD dissertation examined scientific thinking in two ways:  1) developing a unified synthesis of ideas (mainly from scientists and philosophers, but also from sociologists, psychologists, historians, educators, and myself) to construct a model of scientific method and   2) using this model for the integrative analysis of a creative science-inquiry classroom.
        My model of Integrated Scientific Method was constructed based on a thorough literature search to learn what others had written about science and scientific method.  By contrast, my subsequent development of a model for Integrated Design Method was mostly independent from the work of others;  basically, I just thought logically about what happens during the process of design;  but my ideas are consistent with those of other educators, and Thinking Skills in Education compares my Integrated Design Method with Dimensions of Thinking (by Robert Marzano, et al) and the approaches of Robert Swartz (to blend thinking skills instruction with content instruction) and David Perkins (Four Frames of Knowledge).
        an update:  In late 2011, I began developing a website about Using Design Process for Problem Solving and Education.
        Lab Education
        I've explored possibilities for teaching scientific methods of thinking in science labs in four teaching contexts:  in Seattle, as a graduate student I wrote a comprehensive set of guidelines for revising a chemistry lab course for first-year students;  in Madison, in 1989-91 while a grad student in history of science but working as a TA in the physics department, for Physics in the Arts (we played with music, light-colors, and photography!) I developed a comprehensive set of handouts for labs, and in first-year general physics I used discussion-based labs;  from 1991 to the present in UW's chemistry department, first working as a TA (as a grad student in science education) and then on academic staff, I've developed many ideas for chemistry labs.
        In 1999, I made a web-page about Thinking Skills in Labs to describe activities in general chemistry labs;  since then, occasionally the page has been revised in minor ways, and I wrote an introductory overview-summary in early 2011.  Also in 1999, I did a poster session about Aesop's Activities in Chemistry Labs (based on ideas in this page) for a national meeting of the American Chemical Society, and interviewed for a position as lab director of general chemistry at the University of Maryland.
        Later, in September 2010, I wrote a page about my educational philosophy for lab education that explains why "as part of a plan for converting ideas into action, I want to work as a lab director for general chemistry at a research university."  And at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society, in late-March 2011, I did two presentations – a talk (about designing labs to help students learn thinking skills) and a poster session (about using scientific method & design method in education).
        Recently, in October 2012, I wrote Grading-and-Evaluation in Science Labs to summarize the main ideas in this page.

Components of Motivation — Reasons to Learn
A person's reasons for being motivated can be intrinsic (to enjoy an interesting activity), personal (to learn ideas-and-skills that will improve their quality of life, now or later), interpersonal (to impress fellow students or a teacher), or external (to perform well on an assignment or exam).
        These reasons are components of motivation that, when added together, produce a person's total motivation.  Although sometimes it can be useful to distinguish between motivators that are internal or external, we should recognize that all components of motivation are internal because all of these reasons contribute to the way a person is thinking about “what they want” in their whole life as a whole person.

        Using Scientific Method (and Design Method) for Education
        As explained in Scientific Method - My Personal History, for a long time I've been fascinated by scientific methods of thinking and their integration into a coherent Scientific Method.
        For awhile, this page contained a section describing how we can use my model Scientific Method (i.e. the problem-solving process typically used by scientists) to help students improve their understanding of scientific methods of thinking and their skills in scientific thinking.  Now this section has been moved into a separate page and a newer version is available in my website about Using Design Process for Problem Solving and Education where good places to begin exploring might be the homepage plus "Science Process" and "Teaching Design Process - Why?".

Inquiry Activities in Goal-Directed Labs
        This section supplements an introduction to inquiry with ideas from my page about Designing Effective Education that combines Guided Inquiry with Direct Instruction:
  inquiry activities and inquiry labs:  If a particular lab has a sufficient amount of inquiry activities [when students "don't know what to do next"] compared with other types of thinking activities, so the ratio of inquiry/non-inquiry is high, it can be called an inquiry lab.
    decisions about questions & answers:  The level of inquiry difficulty can be adjusted with potential questions-and-answers that a teacher can decide to use or avoid, with the intended clarity of ‘answers’ varying widely, ranging from direct clear explanation by a teacher, through various levels of giving hints and promoting discussions... [to non-answers when a teacher] lets the students construct answers totally by themselves, using only their current knowledge that is based on their previous experiences.   [The page includes a list of potential questions-and-answers for a calorimetry lab.]
    moderation in the use of inquiry:  I think every student should have many opportunities for small-scale inquiry (mainly mini-activities during a lab, but occasionally entire inquiry labs) but I don't think it will be beneficial if inquiry methods are emphasized too heavily in courses or labs.  Even though inquiry can help students learn scientific thinking skills (especially in their first few inquiry experiences) and it can improve motivation, it is only one way to learn the thinking skills of science, and usually it is not efficient for learning the concepts of science. ... Instruction using inquiry and non-inquiry should be a synergistic cooperation, not a winner-takes-all competition. ... Some inquiry-based learning is extremely valuable for supplementing student experiences, and is essential for a complete education;  inquiry is very useful when used with moderation, but it should not be the main instructional format for conceptual learning in science education, and it should be part of a creative eclectic blending of instructional approaches for helping students improve their thinking skills.   [update:  During April 2011, I've been learning more about guided inquiry instruction, and now I'm more open to giving it a larger role in education for learning scientific skills and also scientific concepts;  currently, April 18, my pages about these topics are being expanded-and-revised.]

Weighting of Lab Grades
        Earlier, following a list of evaluation activities, I ask "how much should lab grades be weighted?" for a course where "lab grades are only one input, among many, into the overall course grade."  Basically, the options for weighting lab grades are: heavy, medium, light, or none.  I've taught with 3 of these options — first with no lab grades in 4 semesters of teaching physics in two courses, then light & medium weighting in chemistry courses, and recently 3 semesters of no grading in chemistry — and all of them have worked well.  Below are a few thoughts about grading;  although my personal preference is for a lower weighting of lab grades, a lower weighting is not necessary for using the main ideas in this page, so the ideas below are in a smaller font.
          Typically, instructors who want a medium to heavy weighting (in the 15-25% range) are influenced by asking “how much time do students invest in labs?” and “how much importance should we give to labs?”  But we also should ask “how important are lab grades in determining what students learn?” — how much does motivation affect learning (the educational strategy of David Perkins assumes a "reasonable" motivation, so does this require a medium to medium-heavy weighting of lab grades? maybe not) and how much do the total motivations of students depend on lab grades — and “how confident are we that lab grades are reliably accurate?” and (especially when labs are taught by TAs, so the time-effects of our weighting decisions are multiplied by the number of TAs) “how much grading time is required to get a reliable accuracy that is satisfactory?”
          With a medium weighting of lab grades, conscientious TAs will feel a responsibility to invest the time required to be confident that they have achieved a reliable accuracy in their grading, or they will feel guilty about investing less time than is necessary for this confidence.  But accurate grading of lab reports can be difficult and time-consuming.  Four options for reducing this problem are:  put less weighting on lab grades when determining course grades;  shift some of the lab grade from reports to other types of evaluation activities;  design reports so they are easier to grade;  tell TAs that it's acceptable if they submit lab grades with a lower spread (as measured by standard deviation) than in grades for quizzes and exams.   /   The "lower spread" option can be useful because although heavily weighted lab grades seem to have a significant apparent effect on course grades — so students (at least those who don't understand the consequences of a low spread) may still be motivated — with a lower spread the actual effect is decreased.  A lower spread tends to occur naturally in lab grades anyway,* and if instructors tell TAs that this is acceptable it will remove some of the pressure felt by TAs, and will help make their experience of grading easier and more pleasant.    A lower spread tends to occur because most students do what we ask when they write lab reports, in a satisfactory way, so it may be difficult to distinguish between them with points.  But some lab-report responses can be challenging enough that some students/groups will succeed more thoroughly than others, thus minimizing a ceiling effect and allowing some high-end distinctions.  And if a few students don't think-and-write satisfactorily, thus making themselves low-end outliers, they can be given appropriately lower grades.
          Here is a non-mathematical option (not based on points) that is used by some instructors, to encourage cooperation and motivation in labs:  Tell students, verbally or in a syllabus, that although course grades will be based mainly on total points (including lab grades), each course grade will be assigned after the instructor meets with your TA to ask about the quality of participation in discussion sections & labs, and this input (about attitudes & actions) could be especially important for students who are on a borderline between grades.

Difficulties in Writing Lab Exams to test Higher-Level Thinking Skills
        The idea-summary for evaluation says: "Usually it's easy to construct (and grade) an exam that tests lower-level knowledge, such as a student's ability to recall facts or solve familiar problems by applying a known method.  It's more difficult to construct and grade an exam that accurately measures higher-level thinking skills, by observing how well a student responds to challenges like a novel problem [*] requiring creative improvisation, or testing the quality of their thinking in a complex situation, such as making an evaluation based on multiple goal-criteria that cannot all be maximized so trade-offs (with a weighing of relative advantages) are necessary, or analyzing a situation in which conflicting causal factors are operating."
        * By contrast with an algorithmic problem that has a step-by-step method of solution the students already know, their response to a novel problem is “wow, this is something new, it's not like the problems we've been doing” so the solution method is not apparent, and instead of working from memory they must invent a new way to solve the problem.

        Writing New Questions for Exams
        It's easy to write new lab-questions for algorithmic problems or basic skills (data analysis,...) by making simple changes of numbers, chemicals, or context.  It's more difficult when testing higher-level skills, where the goals are to write questions that have an appropriate level of difficulty (not too easy or too difficult, to avoid a ceiling effect or floor effect) and provide a reliably accurate assessment of skills in creative-and-critical thinking.
        justice:  Why do we need new questions?  It's easier to use the same questions every semester, but when old exams are available for some students (archived in files by a fraternity, sorority, dormitory, instruction center, athletic department, or private tutor) they should be available for all students, to be fair.  But a novel problem loses its unfamiliarity when it's already been seen, by some or all, thus the need for new problems.   But we don't need all new problems.  If old problems are available for all, telling students that "some problems will be repeated, either verbatim or with minor changes" offers two benefits:  students will be motivated to study old exams, which is a thinking activity that will help them learn;  and the repeated problems will decrease the number of new problems that must be written.
        security:  Another challenge is to minimize cheating.  A large university has many simultaneous versions of the same course and several related courses (e.g. for Fall 2010, UW-Madison had 1900 students in 90 sections with 6 lectures for Chemistry 103, and 3200 total students in 12 lectures of 5 general chemistry courses) and many are courses given 2-3 times each year (fall & spring, summer).  There can be leaks of information if students take an exam at different times, and students taking an earlier exam give information to friends taking the exam later.  Even within the same lecture, usually some students don't take the exam at its official time, due to illness or traveling, or (for exams given at night, not during the usual lecture time) scheduling conflicts;  when some students take the exam earlier a major security leak is possible, if one student gives information to many others;  and students who take an exam later will be motivated to ask friends for information, although for various reasons (including their ethical principles) they may not do this.  At UW all students in Chem 103 have the same labs, so (if UW had lab exams) it would make sense to give all students the same lab questions, but coping with the different exam timings would be a major challenge.   /   Every course at UW has a scheduled time period for their final exam.  But it's only a 2-hour period, and most instructors will want to use the whole time to test the content of their full-semester course, instead of using a significant amount of time for lab questions.  One solution would be to ask UW for another hour, to be used by all sections in all 18 courses of general chemistry;  but I don't think UW would allow this.  And another problem would be delaying a major lab-exam until the end of a semester, to cover skills that have been learned during the previous 3 months.   /   Also, to preserve security the section-TAs should not see exam questions before an exam.  TAs should “teach to the exam” by knowing the general types of questions (similar to those on previous exams) but if they know the specific questions they will be confronted with unavoidable ethical dilemmas about what to teach;  if some TAs decide to use specific exam problems (even if they're slightly modified) when showing their students how to solve problems, this will be unfair to students in other sections.   /   Similar security concerns apply for online testing if students can work together when answering questions, thus giving a “who you know” advantage to students that cannot answer questions, but have friends who can and are willing to do this.
        variability of instructors:  In a large-college context, another challenge is persuading all instructors to use lab questions for their own exams, because time is limited during an exam, and instructors want to test what they have been teaching.  The amount of time-limiting varies because some instructors give exams during a 50-minute class period, while others have longer exams (e.g. 90 or 120 minutes) in the evening, so deciding on “a reasonable amount of lab testing” is different if this would take 20 minutes in a 50-minute exam or a 120-minute exam.
        benefit-per-hour for large & small schools:  Skillful writing of exams to test higher-level thinking skills requires creative/critical thinking, and this takes time.  Some challenges for large schools are described above, but the “total benefit (for all students) per hour” would be higher, compared with smaller schools who have a simpler situation but fewer students.
        an option worth investigating:  Buying questions from test-writing specialists might be satisfactory, but it could be too expensive (especially if you want new problems on a continuing basis) to be economically feasible for a sustainable curriculum.  But maybe you can find online forums where educators freely share problems they have created or discovered.  You can look for problems that match your existing lab curriculum, or you can find problems you like and "then decide that the skills needed to solve these problems would be worthy goals to use in building a lab curriculum," with evaluation activities inspiring curriculum design.   {comment: I say "worth investigating" because I haven't yet explored this option.}

        Responses to Difficulties
        How can we respond to these exam-writing difficulties?
        One option is to “go for it”, as I suggest in a continuation of the quotation that began this section: "Usually it's easy to construct... It's more difficult to construct... But if one of our goals is to help students learn higher-level thinking skills, then making exams that test these skills can be a worthwhile investment of time and effort that will be rewarded with improved education."
        Another option is to focus on exam questions that test lower-level skills.  Students can learn a lot while they try to master these valuable scientific skills.  They can also improve their higher-level skills, even if these are not emphasized in exams, if higher-level skills are integrated into the thinking activities they do in labs and they think about for discussions and reports.  And if some higher-level skills are tested in exams, even if they're not the main focus (e.g. they might be only 5-20% of the lab points), this will provide some extrinsic motivation for students to pay attention (with full concentration) during thinking activities, which will reinforce their personal motivations based on their confidence that higher-level skills will be useful in life, not just in school.
        The second option doesn't require as much exam-writing time for teachers.  And it will please most students because they tend to prefer exams where the results are predictable, so they KNOW their studying will be rewarded.  But if you want to mix in some higher-level questions, just tell students that most lab-exam questions will be predictable (which doesn't necessarily mean easy) but a few will be small surprises — similar to the inquiry activities they have done in lab — that they can figure out if they've been learning in lab.


This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
 a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page.  Both keep everything inside this window, 
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.
Here are some related pages:
Scientific Thinking Skills in Science Labs
includes many examples from general chemistry laboratories used
during the past two decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The page you've been reading — which proposes that a carefully planned
   coordinating of goals and activities will give students more experiences that   
will help them learn valuable thinking skills — is based on ideas outlined in
Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education.

Education for Thinking Skills
is a sitemap for my web-pages with strategies for helping students
learn the skills of Creativity and Critical Thinking that are used in
Scientific Method, Design Method, and general Problem Solving.

with ideas about theory & application from many authors,


this page is http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/teach/dblabs.htm

Copyright © 1999-2011 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved