The End of the Dreaded Lab ReportI am pretty sure that starting next year I will no longer require the students write a formal lab report (i.e., title page, purpose, procedure, data, conclusions) which is due the following week. Instead students will have to complete a set of directed questions pertaining to the purpose in class and a set of questions outside of class. The questions outside of class will be done online for the most part. Half of the credit will be for completion and the other half is for their understanding of the results. This will be for all chemistry classes which includes College Prep, Honors, and AP Chem. Seymour High School is getting rid of the Core class designation next year and those students will be incorporated into College Prep classes.
Why get rid of the formal lab reports? There numerous reasons but one that sticks out is my beloved technology. Years ago students had to research lab questions, construct tables and graphs based on the experiment, and put them into a handwritten report. Now, they look up the info online and just cut and paste it into the report without reading it or comprehending it. I prefer they construct tables and graphs with the computer, however, I am not sure who did the graph these days. In addition, they will send this to their friends who change a couple things or not and submit this as their own work (notice I didn’t use the word plagiarize - that’s another blog post). I could require students to hand everything in by hand but I think this new approach will be friendlier for less motivated students. Also, this takes care of another issue, absenteeism. If a student misses the experiment, I can give them some data so they can complete the questions. Of course it would be easier if they were there for the experiment.
Lab reports are important but the implementation or grading is not antiquated well with the times. I haven’t the time to set up the lab, take down the lab, grade the report, and then ensure that each student completes their own report. Universities and Colleges typically have Lab as a separate course where a Teaching Assistant does the work.
I have discussed this with Tony Ciccone, Seymour Chem Teacher emirates, as well as a colleague in another district who no longer requires formal lab reports. He has very good results especially with his AP Chem class. I think this new approach will be less time consuming for me once it is implemented and more importantly, better for the students.
Comments are welcome, especially from other HS chem teachers...