Lab Reports - Are they Worth It?

I realized I didn’t want to do it.  I had this urge to just say, “forget it”, lets draw the carbon and water cycles instead. But there they sat, my students looking up at me with the lab report guidelines in their hands. I took a deep breath, suppressing the feeling of dread but still wondering, "Is it worth it?"

The 8th graders had just completed another fun lab on combustion enabling them to observe and indirectly measure the production of carbon dioxide in a “chamber” where combustion had taken place. The standards for this lab include writing up the lab report to include all the proper elements. I just sat there dreading the “pulling teeth” component of guiding students through the process and continued pondering whether it was worth it.

I also have to modify for learning support and English language learners so as I’m juggling three different rubrics I’m still tempted by those carbon and water cycles. 

Finally, I plunge in.  I pull up a template and we begin with the title page and introduction.  I have them start with just that.  It always amazes me how long each step takes, even just getting the format of the title page.  Why should I be surprised?  It’s always the same and it’s precisely why I had to suppress dread that was attempting to creep in.

However, as I see perfect title pages appear on computer screens throughout the classroom, I start to feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  I’m energized to carry on.  They start writing their introductions.  It’s not so bad.  My heart swells with compassion and a desire to see them succeed.  Suddenly, the dread is gone and my slate is clear.  I’m ready to tackle this.  And, it IS worth it.

Teachers: How do you teach lab report writing?  Do you use a rubric?  Do you use templates?  We’ve streamlined our lab report rubrics from the 6th grade adding incrementally the expectations leading students to the IB standards in Grades 11 and 12.  The format is all the same for all the classes in grades 6-12, regardless the teacher.  It’s very consistent and effective in training students in the lab report write-up.