At one point I hated labs. I hated them in school. I even hated doing labs with my students. Allow me to list the reasons why:
- finding good labs, not just the ones with the book
- making sure you have the supplies for labs
- setting up labs takes forever, especially if teaching more than one type of science class
- students READING then FOLLOWING all instructions during the lab
- lab safety
- cleaning up...always a mess
- oh, and did I mention grading?
I wanted students to do labs all the time but I didn't want to grade a lab report every single time they did a lab, so I devised a method so that I wasn't drowning in grading. First, ALL students must keep a lab notebook. For every single lab they are to have the following:
- Results (table and graph)
Then, after about 6 weeks, they will self and peer grade with a rubric. They have to have a table of contents, pages numbered, labs completed and then 1 lab is chosen to be graded in depth. I pick the lab. After they peer and self grade, it then comes to me. I have my TAs grade the notebook then I am the final eyes. This once every six weeks process of grading saves me a TON of time. When I do want them to do a formal lab write-up, I use this lab report HERE.
Sometimes, the students will design a lab that isn't successful. Students will ask, "Does this mean I fail?" I laugh and say, "Of course not. Welcome to the world of science. You just found one way that doesn't work."
I believe that NGSS wants us teachers to incorporate inquiry experimentation in our classes. We teachers need to find clever ways to deliver these types of laboratory activities, because if students are not DOING science, then what are we doing as teachers?
Regardless, labs are definitely a way to see if kids can "DO" science. Heck, one of the Science and Engineering Practices is: planning and carrying out investigations. And if done well, the kids will cover the following SEPs as well: obtaining, evaluating and communicating information; engaging in argument from evidence, constructing explanations and designing solutions, using math and computation thinking, asking questions and defining problems, analyzing and interpreting data, developing and using models. Hmmmmm....that's all of the Science and Engineering Practices (at least with a science spin).
My point is, having kids do an inquiry style approach to an experiment will offer more learning opportunities and embodies the nature of NGSS. Whether it is a lab practical, an original experiment, a tweak on a lab done earlier in the year, whatever...students will appreciate science more! They will not only be DOING science, they are forced to apply their THINKING and their KNOWLEDGE.
Looky there...3 Dimensional Learning.
Would love to know others thoughts on using labs for NGSS!