Let’s get a coffee and you can tell me your story.
Let me explain why I don’t have my homework.
Our data might not look good, but wait till you hear what happened!
Just as our lives and various circumstances have a story, so do our laboratory experiences. Often the labs we do lack context but we expect students to buy in to the experiment without knowing the what, where, or why of the story. What makes this lab worth doing? What question(s) are we trying to answer? Why was someone exploring this in the first place?
When we fail to give our students the back story we are doing them a disservice. As they begin to explore the world outside our classroom (whether it is in the context of science or not), they will encounter data, ideas, interpretations that all have a story. As I am doing labs with my students this semester I have been reminded that students want to be part of the story. They want to know how their role is important in the larger context. As we frame our labs in this light, we are giving our students the opportunity to write the next few pages of the story. As they collect data that may be beautiful, we want them to be able to explain what that data means; tell a story. When they collect data that may be poor, we also want them to be able to explain why that happened; tell a story.
It is not enough for us to teach our students to be good data collectors; we must also teach them to do thorough analysis and reporting. As we teach them these skills, we are preparing them to be good story tellers. As they leave our classrooms they will be able to share with others not only the skills they have developed, but also know when, how, and why to apply them and how to interpret their results. This is one of the key ingredients to inquiry learning. As we approach the conclusion of our stories with our students this year, I hope you are seeing the fruits of your introduction, character development, and plot twists and that they lead you to a place where you can allow your students to write the next chapter in their story.