How to Teach With LabWrite : The Basics

LabWrite is a resource for students. But in order for students to get the full learning potential from using LabWrite, lab instructors need to provide motivation and guidance for their students. You can achieve the best results for your students by offering four kinds of guidance:

1. Introducing students to LabWrite
2. Assigning the PreLab before labs
3. Reminding students to use other parts of LabWrite as appropriate
4. Grading lab reports


Introducing Students to LabWrite

Providing a formal introduction to LabWrite in the lab class has two benefits. First, it gives students an overview of the web site and shows them how to use it. Second, it sends the message to students that LabWrite is an important part of the class and they are expected to use it.

When to Introduce LabWrite in your Lab:

Deciding when to do the introduction to LabWrite depends on the course curriculum and lab schedule. Most lab instructors introduce LabWrite during the first week of labs. Because activities during that first week are often limited to descriptions of schedules, policies, safety, and other administrative issues, there is some time for an introduction to LabWrite. Some lab instructors wait until just before the first lab report is due, thus having the LabWrite materials fresher in students’ minds as they work on their reports. Regardless of when you choose to introduce LabWrite to your students, the introduction will reinforce your commitment to the site and will encourage higher participation from your students.

How to Introduce LabWrite:

There are several approaches you can take for a formal introduction to LabWrite. You can use a Power Point presentation that leads students through the major parts of the site, including the Tutor. For a full treatment of how to introduce students to LabWrite, including strategies and teaching materials, Click here.

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Assigning the PreLab Before the Labs

In our interviews with students, many have identified the PreLab as the part of LabWrite that contributes most to their learning of science. The PreLab is designed to stimulate learning in two ways:

(1) It encourages students to focus on what they are supposed to be learning by doing the lab—the scientific concept of the lab; and (2) it initiates the process of thinking scientifically about the upcoming lab. An additional value for students is that once students complete a LabWrite PreLab, t hey have essentially written all the components of the Introduction of their lab reports. When writing their Introduction, all they will have to do is revise their answers to the PreLab and put them in paragraph form.

Assigning the PreLab also has benefits for the lab instructor. Asking students to email or otherwise turn in their PreLab responses before the lab allows you to identify problems with students’ understanding of the lab and to address those problems before the lab begins. You may also ask students to bring their PreLabs to the lab class and take a few minutes at the beginning of the class for them to swap their responses, to identify any possible misunderstandings in the responses, and then to discuss those misunderstandings in the class as a whole.

You can click here to find other tips for using the PreLab in your class.

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Reminding Students to Use Parts of LabWrite as Appropriate

Especially early in the term, students may need to be reminded to use parts of LabWrite. This reminder also reinforces your expectation that students will use those parts. It is helpful to remind students:

  • To answer the PreLab questions before the lab and to turn it in according to your assignment
  • To use the InLab as they are working in the lab
  • To find and use LabWrite graphing resources appropriate to the lab
  • To use the PostLab for writing their reports (especially at the end of the first couple of labs before students leave)
  • To use the LabChecklist as a guide for revising their reports before they turn them in
  • To use the hot links on the LabCheck Evaluation Guide to help them understand your evaluations on the grading rubric and to guide them in doing better on the next lab report (when you hand back the graded reports)

Other helpful information is available for teaching with InLab, PostLab, and LabCheck.

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Grading with LabWrite

Perhaps the most effective way of encouraging students to use LabWrite is to grade their lab reports using the LabWrite Evaluation Guide, which is based on criteria for a good lab report taken from the PostLab. Students are motivated by grades. However, the best reason for using the Evaluation Guide is that it provides a way for you to shape and reinforce the scientific reasoning that is reflected in the writing of the lab report.

For help in using the Evaluation Guide, see Grading Lab Reports.

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