Science notebooks : can they replace traditional lab reports?

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


Laboratory experiments have been used by science educators for over two centuries. This is primarily due to the fact that laboratory experiments play a fundamental role in the education of a science student. Laboratory experiments help students learn science concepts in straight forward hands on ways. They expose students to methods and skills and use practical means to elucidate science concepts. Science educators face several hurdles in making the laboratory experiment a useful educational tool. The first and most obvious issue is picking an experiment which will allow students to master science content. Creating the perfect experiment to instruct students can be a daunting task. That being said there are many 'classic' labs which educators have used over the years which often fit the bill. After using the correct experiment science educators are then challenged to accurately assess their student's performance. More often than not this means using a standard type written lab report. This is the same old tried and true document that we have all created. It is usually based on a rubric and is normally written well after the experiment itself, well after the particulars are perhaps forgotten. My action research project measured the effectiveness of a typewritten lab report against a well structured science notebook as an assessment tool. A series of laboratory experiments was used to measure the usefulness of the two assessment strategies. Forty two students from New Fairfield High School participated in the study. Attitude surveys, post lab quizzes, exit tickets and several interviews were conducted and the results compared. The results indicated that both assessment tools allowed students to master science content. The results suggested that the students did enjoyed using a science notebook because it allowed them to organize their ideas. Based upon the results of this project it is my intention to assess lab reports in the future using a combination of both approaches.




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