Physics 11 – I divided the class into random groups and each group was given a bucket with three masses, two Newton scales, and a wooden block. Their task is to determine the coefficient of friction between the floor and the wooden block.
Most groups were content to take one measurement and use that to calculate the coefficient. I stepped in a bit and suggested that they get more data. I did this by asking them what their independent and dependent variables could be, which helped. Some students even showed understanding of how they could use a graph to help determine the coefficient, while others were happy to average a range of numbers.
Overall the activity went ok. They were asked to hand in a good lab report, which will then be graded. They previously handed in a lab report which I gave them feedback on. Hopefully they will take my feedback and use it to do a good job on this one.
Science 9 – This was the class’s second try at writing a lab report. The idea is for the students to do their report, and then I will give them mine. They will then do a comparison of their lab to mine, and then both their labs and comparison will be handed in to me for grading.
Science 8 – After writing down their lab reports, for which I gave the students loose instructions, I handed out a completed lab report that I wrote. I then asked the students to compare their labs with mine. They had to compare and contrast their lab with mine and then describe two things they did well and two things that they could improve upon. I really like this activity because:
- they have to think about their lab reports, rather than file away a marked report
- they have to explicitly describe areas where they can improve
- I don’t have to spend an hour per class marking for no real benefit
Physics 11 – After a few classes of thinking and discussing concepts, it was time to do some concrete work on forces. The students examined the relationship between spring force and spring extension. They were tasked with designing their own test procedure, gathering data, and graphing it to come up with a model for springs. Several groups didn’t measure spring extension but measured the total length of the spring. While they could have subtracted the initial length, they didn’t. This is the problem with verbal instructions – there will always be students that miss out on details. From their perspective, there would be no obvious reason why they want to use extension data rather than total length.
I haven’t gone over their labs yet. My general plan is to give feedback to each student, including a checklist of things to look for such as: titles and headings, data table and observations, repeatable and understandable procedure, graphs and data analysis, and a decent conclusion and discussion. They already have a report format sheet and I’ll hand out an exemplar for this lab. The next time they hand in a lab report, they can be graded against a similar checklist and there will be no questions about expectations.