Checklists are a simple yet powerful ways to improve individual and group lab performance. They are declarations of standards and can ensure that important tasks are not only completed correctly but that students understand the significance of each action in the SOP or protocol.
The checklists used in my science courses have a common foundation regardless of the topic or content being assessed. Checklists are built using key content standards, Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards. When used to reinforce content being explored through authentic experimentation, the checklists are used to highlight key tasks upon which the investigation depends. Therefore, critical steps or actions in the execution of an assay which would make or break the successful completion of the experiment would certainly become checklist questions.
The checklists serve as a guide for the 3-5 minute mini-conferences I conduct with each student group during the completion of any student-centered or student-led activity, such as laboratory experiments. After each student group completes the student and group name portion of the checklist they are asked to return the document and the fun begins!
I randomly select a student group as well as a members of the group to pose each inquiry listed on the checklist. Groups never know which individual I will direct each question or the order in which the questions will be asked. Each group has three opportunities to correctly answer each question. I then record on the checklist on which attempt the correct answer was provided as well as any other comments, notes, or suggestions. I move quickly and purposefully from group to group and do not use the time as an opportunity to reteach but instead to provide students with an opportunity to use scientific discourse, content-specific language and to verbally demonstrate their understanding of scientific concepts.