A New Take on Student Lab Reports

The March issue of The Science Teacher features “A New Take on Student Lab Reports” by Ed Hazzard, which describes how students can use screencasts – digital video recordings of computer screen images that include audio narration – to report on their computer-based science labs. This tool could yield exciting results for science teaching.

The written lab report is essential to the scientific endeavor and a key expression and product of inquiry. Generally, however, students and teachers dislike these reports, the former for needing to write them and the latter for needing to read them. We have observed an intriguing alternative: students created short, non-editable screencasts to report on their computer-based science labs. In this article, we share our preliminary observations that:

  • teachers can review a report in a few minutes and quickly gain insight into student thinking;
  • answers tend to be substantial rather than minimal;
  • student teams enthusiastically tackle the task of composition, spontaneously cooperate in generating the report, readily put forward explanations of the results in some depth, whether or not scientifically accurate; easily refer to data in table or graphical form; and comfortably produce reports even if less confident as writers.

These encouraging results warrant further exploration of this medium as a valuable augmentation to written lab reports, especially as a tool for greater insight into student thinking and a taking-off point for rich discussions.

Read the full article (posted with permission of The Science Teacher).

Watch sample students screencasts in the InquirySpace project.