Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

Jennifer Kosnik

Keeping a Laboratory Notebook


Why a lesson on laboratory notebooks? Why are they important?

In my lab placement this summer, one of the things that I started to do was keep a laboratory notebook. This notebook contained more than just a list of the procedures that I used in the lab. In addition, it documented my learning. When I had to do research, I took notes on each of the articles and recorded questions about what I did not understand. Instead of running to my mentor to immediately ask him all the questions I had, I used additional resources to answer these questions myself or I just waited a few days and came back to them. Asking my mentor for help was a last resort. What I found is that when I went back to my question, I often had an answer. This really boosted my confidence and concretely proved to me that I was learning a tremendous amount. In addition, I used this notebook to express any frustrations or other feeling I was having about the work.

 

What are other reasons laboratory notebooks are important for students?

In addition to being a good experience for me, this notebook would be good for students because it is an organized way for them to keep track of their processes in an inquiry based experiment. Their semester project is going to be an inquiry based experiment on determining a mutation in yeast. [Teaching Standard D- Structure time for extended investigations] (I got this experiment off the web at http://raven.umnh.utah.edu/units/yeast/inquiry.html). Therefore, they need a mechanism for keeping track of their process of investigation and experimentation.

As part of their culminating project, students will be asked to carefully record their process of scientific inquiry. The skill of keeping an organized laboratory notebook will be taught to the class in the first weeks of school. Therefore, by the time of the project, students will already know what is expected of them in terms of the scientific notebook part of the project.



Parts of the Laboratory Notebook:

1. Daily Record Keeping: Students will be expected to write in their notebook on a daily basis. The kinds of things that they should record are the following:

A. Date and record of class activities.

B. Notes taken in class.

C. Specific information about every class activity whether it is a lab, group work, or individual work.

i. What are you being asked to do and why?

ii. What do you think about what you see and do? (This should be a dialogue with yourself about the content and skills that you are learning.)

iii. What questions do you have about what you are being asked to observe, research, or do?

iv. What new ideas and questions are you asking yourself related to the activity? What else would you like to know? What questions do you have that you would like to answer by developing an experiment? [5-8 Content Standard A- Questions that guide inquiry]

v. What did you accomplish in class today?

D. A list of the homework assignment and the due date.

2. Weekly Reflection: At the end of every week, students will be asked to record the following reflection in their laboratory notebooks.

A. What are the concepts explored in class this week?

i. What do you know now that you did not know before?

ii. What did you learn this week that is somehow different from what you had previously thought?

iii. What did you not understand so well? Raise specific questions.

iv. What did you really understand well? Give specific details. If you clearly record your thinking you will really own the ideas.

B. What hands on experiments/simulations did you do this week?

i. What are the experiments/simulations that you are doing?

ii. What questions are you trying to answer?

iii. What procedures did you use to answer the question?

iv. What did you learn as a result from experimenting?

v. What can you conclude as a result of your experiments? Use evidence to support your conclusion.

vi. How are any conclusions you made different from what you had thought prior to the experiment?

C. How do you feel about what you are doing in class?

i. How do you feel about what went on in class this week?

ii. What did you contribute? What do you wish you contributed but weren't able? What kept you from being able to contribute the way you would have like to?

iii. What really worked for you? Why?

iv. What was not so successful for you? Why?

v. What would you like to improve on? How can you make these changes?

D. What are the habits of mind that you are using?

i. How is what you are learning relevant? So what?

ii. How is what you are learning connected to other things you have studied or your life in general?

iii. Whose point of view did you consider this week? Whose point of view did you not consider that you should have considered? Explain.

iv. What else would you like to explore? What if you had done one thing differently? How would that have affected other things? Be specific.

3. Partner Response: Every week students will trade notebooks with someone in their group and will read and respond to their partner's reflection.

A. Give some warm feedback on something that you really enjoyed when reading your partner's laboratory notebook. Cite the specific piece of text that you are commenting on.

B. Commend your partner for something that really impressed you when you read their laboratory notebook. [Teaching Standard E- Display and demand respect for diverse ideas]

C. Make connections between the things you wrote about in your reflection and what your partner wrote about. How is what you wrote about similar to and/or different from what your partner wrote about?

D. Help your partner with something he or she finds difficult. Either answer any questions that they have about the content that you can answer or give them advice on how they can achieve any goals that they set for themselves.


Explanation of how students will be introduced to this class requirement:

1. Students will be given notebooks with the assignment sheet glued inside.

2. Students will be assessed on this notebook after the first week so that they can see how they are meeting the expectations that the teacher has set for them.

3. The teacher will also be expected to keep a notebook in order to help model the process for the students. [Teaching Standard E- Model skills of inquiry]


Rubric for how students will be graded:

Notebooks will be collected twice a month. The notebooks will be worth a certain percentage of the final grade for the course. If a student is absent, they are expected to have a notebook entry for that day. They will be given two days from the time of their return to make up the missing work. Notebooks will be graded on the following:

1. Number of Entries

A. Exceeds:

Has an entry for every day of class.

B. Meets:

Missing one entry for the two week period.

C. Needs:

Missing more than one entry for the two week period.

2. Quality of Daily Record Keeping

A. Exceeds:

Thoroughly reports on what goes on in class.

Asks insightful questions about what they don't understand.

Raises new ideas or areas of research that they would like to do to further expand on what is going on in class.

B. Meets:

Reports on what goes on in class, but lacks some information at times.

Occasionally asks insightful questions about what they don't understand.

Sometimes raises new ideas or areas of research that they would like to do to further expand on what is going on in class.

C. Needs:

Daily class record lacks many of the important details.

Asks very few questions about what they don't understand.

Seldom raises new ideas or areas of research that they would like to do to further expand on what is going on in class.

3. Quality of Weekly Reflections

A. Exceeds:

Thoroughly answers all questions and gives specific details.

B. Meets:

Answers all questions. Most answers contain specific details, but some do not have enough detail.

C. Needs:

Does not answer all questions and lacks specific details.

4. Quality of Response to Partner's Notebook

A. Exceeds:

Thoroughly answers all questions and gives specific details.

B. Meets:

Answers all questions. Most answers contain specific details, but some do not have enough detail.

C. Needs:

Does not answer all questions and lacks specific details.


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