How can a student show what he or she has learned in a laboratory? The way that might first pop into your head is the lab report. It is a tangible, written record of an experiment’s results that can easily be marked for presence of procedure, data, analysis, etc. But what about the processes that occur during the lab itself? Some educators use practical exams in the lab as a way for students to demonstrate techniques they have learned. For example, Rhodes described how she used it in her high school chemistry classroom in A Laboratory Practical Exam for High School Chemistry (available to subscribers). In the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education, Hennah and Seery discuss, as the title states: Using Digital Badges for Developing High School Chemistry Laboratory Skills (freely available to all as an ACS Editors’ Choice article).
Hennah and Seery’s work breaks a similar lab practical experience down into even more basic steps, with individual badges for three described techniques: preparing a standard solution, volumetric pipetting, and performing a titration. It begins with students watching exemplar videos of the techniques that can be viewed on the students’ schedule, as many times as desired (see article’s references 15–17 for video links). In the lab, instead of a standard written report, the work produced is digital. Students work in pairs. As a student demonstrates his or her lab skill, the partner records video with the demonstrator’s smartphone. This allows the video to later remain in control of the student being evaluated. Badge requirements also include the student orally describing what they are doing during the skill, adding a communication element to the experience. Afterward, the video is used for self-evaluation, peer review and discussion with his or her partner, and discussion with a teacher.
Overall, the authors report that students “acted in a more assured and purposeful manner,” including during later lab experiments that incorporated similar skills. They also noted a need for further work helping to develop student communication skills, saying, “pupils lacked the confidence and the vocabulary to clearly describe what they were doing and why they were doing it.”
How have you evaluated your students’ lab skills?
Orbital Battleship Remix
The September 2016 Especially JCE column highlighted an Orbital Battleship game that helped to teach electron configurations. The authors offer an addition in this issue; see Addition to Orbital Battleship: A Guessing Game To Reinforce Atomic Structure—Recommendations on How To Organize Game Play of Orbital Battleship. They share ways that the game can be modified, based on feedback from teachers and students who have tried the game since then. These include a recommended rule change to keep students engaged throughout the game, along with a more effective way to organize tournament-style play. If you’ve tried the game with your students, have you made any modifications to fit your classroom?
More from the July 2017 Issue
But wait, there’s more! Mary Saecker collects the rest of the issue in her JCE 94.07 July 2017 Issue Highlights. There are additional articles related to the use of technology in the lab, along with more ways that teachers have used videos to teach.
How have you used Journal resources? We want to hear! Start by submitting a contribution form, explaining you’d like to contribute to the Especially JCE column. Then, put your thoughts together in a blog post. Questions? Contact us using the ChemEd X contact form.