During the Lab
- Interact with the students for the entire duration of the lab. You should visit every group, pair, or student at least once if not more during the lab period.
- As you move around the room, ask pointed questions that require students to take their thinking one step further. If students have questions of you, try to refrain from just providing the answer. Instead, ask leading and focusing questions to guide students to discover on their own.
- Check on the students often. Ask questions that make the students connect the experiment and the concepts. Similarly, invite lots of questions!
- Know the lab methods thoroughly so you can help students with logistical and procedural questions.
- Consider pausing the lab once or twice (if possible) to go over frequently asked questions with the whole class, look at a demonstration, or discuss concepts and procedures. Very often, many students will have the same questions during lab. It is effective if you address these issues to the class at once. You may also want to skim the lab beforehand to consider natural stopping points while you are prepping.
- Make connections between the experiment (or procedure) and concepts. Remind students, and ask them to tell you, how the lab relates to lecture material and larger concepts.
- Prepare a range of questions to prompt reflection and discussion. Instead of asking “Any questions?” try asking “What are your questions?” or “What do you understand from this?” Be specific about a concept or topic. Simple questions like “What does this machine do?” or “What assumptions are being made for this experiment?” can help jumpstart the conversation. See also Asking Effective Questions.
After the Lab
- If possible, stop a few minutes before lab ends to summarize the major points of the exercise. If this is not possible, since groups often finish before lab ends, consider adding an end-of-class quiz.
- When you return the graded labs to your students, discuss common misunderstandings. Encourage your students to read your comments and learn from their mistakes. One technique to encourage this continued learning is to have a follow-up lab assignment in which students correct their labs and turn them in again.