Reflection: Student Communication Earthquake & Volcano Mapping - Section 4: Laboratory Analysis


I've always thought about how to get students to productively "analyze" a lab. I think as coach of many new science teachers, that one of the greatest and most fundamental misconceptions about science teaching is the notion that: a) labs are easy and b) hands on automatically = student learning. In my years of teaching, I've found that both are substantially false. While this is not to say that hands on is bad teaching (not in the slightest!), the connections between content and process, procedure and thinking need to be carefully delineated and planned for by the instructor. Too often, I've done labs that have worked wonderfully - everyone is on-task, everything is prepped, there are no accidents, mistakes, or mishaps, but the student learning isn't there.

In some time with trial and error and experimenting (ha!) with labs, its actually in the "analysis" that many of these laboratory concepts are drawn out. While its important for students to do the work of science, develop collaborative skills and see their content in action, it's just as important for the teacher to be clear and explicit for what the learning goals are. Frankly, doing something only because its fun isn't a great way to drive student achievement. In fact, when I've taught this exact lesson before, I found that my lack of deliberateness in highlighting key ideas and concepts didn't result in the learning outcomes I wanted. When students do analysis, they're really starting to constructively think about what happened and transition that into their long-term memory. If they spend 30-60 minutes just following a procedure, without any opportunity for a post-hoc debrief or reflection, learning will always suffer!

  Laboratory Analysis
  Student Communication: Laboratory Analysis
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Earthquake & Volcano Mapping

Unit 2: The Dynamic Earth
Lesson 10 of 16

Objective: SWBAT map out where most of the world's earthquakes and volcanoes occur [LAB]

Big Idea: Students diagram where the world's earthquakes and volcanoes occur - which they will eventually come to see happen primarily along plate boundaries!

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