Laboratory notebooks – what are you assessing?

Rice, Laura, Hinch, Leeanne and Finlayson, Odilla E. (2013) Laboratory notebooks – what are you assessing? In: 5th Eurovariety in Chemistry Education, University of Limerick, 3rd – 5th July 2013. “Smarter Teaching-Better Learning, Limerick, Ireland..


The production of laboratory reports is generally considered necessary for undergraduate chemistry students. These reports are a record of the activities carried out and are typically assessed to determine students understanding of the chemical techniques and concepts covered. The assessment of laboratory reports tends to be itemised with a strict marking breakdown. The repeated writing of laboratory reports can be excessively time consuming and not lead to life-long skills which are useful in research or industrial laboratories. Students often tend to focus too much on unnecessary procedural detail and not enough on the meaning of their results. For this reason, the maintenance of laboratory notebooks was introduced into a chemistry laboratory module for a pre-service teacher programme for Physical Education and Biology teachers. The assessment of this module was based on class tests and a laboratory notebook which the students maintained throughout the module. Students were given guidelines for what was expected of the content of their notebooks. Their notebooks were to include all the information necessary to repeat the experiments, address the chemical concepts covered using molecular level drawings where possible, and also suggest ideas of how the experiment/activity could be used in their future teaching. Students were not given a marking scheme of how their notebooks were to be graded. An assessment rubric for the module was developed based on the notebook guidelines provided. The variety of students interpretation of the guidelines given is discussed and the results are compared to class tests associated with each laboratory activity.

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