- Review PreLab questions with
your students prior to the first PreLab assignment
- Assigning the PreLab
- Consider assigning a grade
or point value to the PreLab
- Make use of the various LabWrite
modes for PreLab
- General background for teaching
Review PreLab questions with your students prior
to the first PreLab assignment
the PreLab questions on the LabWrite site are self-explanatory, it may
be a good idea for you to review these questions prior to assigning
the very first PreLab assignment. This will give your students an opportunity
to ask questions about the assignment. It will also give you a chance
to emphasize the importance of doing PreLab or to review any specific
requirements you may have for this assignment.
PreLab questions you may either use the PreLab
Handout found on the PreLab home page, or you can project it from
the web site itself. If you use the “How to Use Labwrite”
PowerPoint presentation found under “How
to Introduce Labwrite," you can take advantage of slides about
PreLab for reviewing PreLab questions.
Assigning the PreLab
PreLab offers a valuable learning experience for your students. The
basic strategy for the PreLab assignment is to ask students to answer
the PreLab questions and to turn their answers in to you before the
lab by email or by another method. However, there are a variety of other
teaching strategies you can employ:
in answering the PreLab questions together as a class. (This is
a particularly good strategy to use for the first lab as a way of
familiarizing students with the PreLab.)
Take the first
few minutes of lab and asign each lab group a PreLab question and
then have the groups give their answers to the whole class. This
will give you the opportunity for discussion of the answers.
At the beginning
of the lab period, ask eah lab group to answer all the PreLab questions
and then randomly ask groups for their answers. Discuss the answers.
Have all students
brind their PreLab answers to class and ask students in each group
to swap their answers with another lab group. Ask each lab group
to review the answers of the other group. Then have students discuss
any differences they find between their own answers and the answers
from the other group.
Assign all students
the PreLab and then collect them as they enter the lab. Quickly
look over the answers as the students are getting started with the
lab and then take a few minutes to address any confusions or misconceptions
you see in the students' understanding of the lab.
Consider assigning a grade or point value to the
is helpful to you and to your students to reviw their PreLab answers.
Some lab instructors grade the PreLabs. Others have a system for giving
students credit for doing the assignment, such as a check, check-plus,
check-minus or awarding participation points. A grade value of some
sort will motivate students to do the PreLab and take it seriously.
However, you need not spend much time grading the PreLabs. Skim the
students' answers and make a quick judgment of the quality of each based
on the depth of the answers and the logic of the scientific thinking
behind the answers. Only in rare circumstances should you make any written
comments. If you see that there are general problems in the PreLabs,
note them for yourself and address them with all the students in the
lab. Be sure that the PreLab grades figure into the total overall lab
grade to motivate students to take the PreLab seriously.
Make use of the various LabWrite modes for
with most stages of LabWrite, PreLab offers various modes of use: The
Tutor, the Self-Guide, and the Handout. You can let students decide
which mode to use or you can assign the one you prefer. In either case,
the type of set-up you have in your laboratory will most likely be the
For writing the PreLab interactively on-line. Students can download
to a word processing program and send as an email attachment or print
it out and hand it in.
For using as an online reference while writing the PreLab in a non-interactive
mode. A printable version is available at the PreLab homepage.
Handout: For printing and filling out the PreLab questions
by hand or by copying and pasting into a word processing program.
Best for students who prefer to work with a non-interactive format.
General background for teaching with PreLab
PreLab leads students through a set of questions they should answer
in preparation for lab units requiring lab reports. The point is to
shape the lab experience as scientific inquiry before they even set
foot in the lab. PreLab does this by asking students to identify what
they are supposed to be learning when doing the lab, what the goals
of the lab are, and what hypothesis they would project for the outcomes
of the lab procedure. In addition to preparing students for the lab,
the answers to these questions provide what amounts to a draft of the
Introduction for their reports.
Overview of PreLab:
consists of two parts. The first asks students to carefully read the
description of the lab procedure, an important part of any lab preparation.
The second part presents questions for students to answer. Students
are guided in answering these questions by specific directions given
below each question. If your students make a good effort in answering
these questions, they should be prepared to make sense of the laboratory
What is the
scientific concept for the lab? This
question encourages student to focus on what the lab is about. Too
often students get caught up in completing the lab for a grade,
and miss the big picture of the lab—scientific investigation.
the objectives for this lab? Objectives help students to think
about what they are supposed to accomplish in the procedure—what
the are actually doing in the lab—measuring, analyzing, observing,
What is the
overall purpose of the lab? Purpose emphasizes the lab as a
learning experience. This question invites students to look at the
big picture, how what they accomplish in the lab procedure helps
them to learn something about the science concept behind the lab.
It links questions 1 and 2 so that students see past following the
steps of the procedure and getting the "right answer."
Answering this question should get them thinking about why they
are doing the procedure in the first place.
What is your
hypothesis for the lab experiment? This, of course, is a crucial
step in scientific inquiry. Determining a hypothesis depends on
students' ability to understand both the scientific concept and
the laboratory procedure and put the two together in a way that
makes sense. Students are asked to make their best estimation of
the outcomes of the procedure based on what they know about the
did you use to arrive at your hypothesis? Having to provide
a reasoning for their hypotheses makes students have to do more
than just write any hypothesis, because they have to use what they
know about the scientific concept (at this point, that may be only
what they have read as background for the lab or in the course text
book) to back up their chosen hypothesis. Their answers to this
question will allow you to see gaps in their understanding of the