Assessing the factors that affect the way(s) high school chemistry students write effective laboratory reports
In the past, many claims have been made about the value of laboratory work in high school chemistry courses. Educators have emphasized that laboratory work helps students engage in scientific reasoning, such as critically evaluating data, debating ideas, and supporting claims with evidence. However, research concerning laboratory instruction indicated that the fundamental focus of many students in the laboratory is on completing the task and not on how to interpret or present their results in an effective laboratory report. This study investigated how students' perceptions and attitudes, integrated laboratory/classroom instruction, and the type of laboratory activities/experiments affected high school chemistry students' ability to write effective laboratory reports. Ten high school students (4 students enrolled in Chemistry I and 6 students enrolled in Honors Chemistry) participated in this study. Data sources for this analysis included questionnaire, student interviews, classroom observations, and documents written by students. The questionnaire consisted of two sections: a Likert scale survey and free response questions. The survey was used to assess the qualities of the classroom learning environment from the students' perspective. The free response section contained a series of questions that explored students' perceptions and attitudes of the laboratory instruction. The individual semi-structured interviews were conducted to probe student ideas about how the act of writing effective laboratory reports may have impacted their understanding of chemistry and their ability to write. Classroom observations and written documents were used to gather data regarding the context in which participants conducted laboratory experiments and write laboratory reports. Analysis of the questionnaires and interviews identified four main factors that students perceived to be important for writing an effective laboratory report within the high school chemistry laboratory context: (a) format of the laboratory instruction influenced student writing of laboratory reports; (b) laboratory instruction, especially laboratory reports, contributed to their understanding and learning of the chemistry concepts; (c) laboratory instruction and class work should be integrated and related; and (d) laboratory instruction should provide students with the opportunity to conduct more experimentation on their own, where they can pursue their own chemistry interests. Further research is needed to investigate students' perceptions about their own learning of science as they engage in writing laboratory reports. ^
Mary B. Nakhleh, Purdue University.
Education, Secondary|Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction