Prelab for classes

Submitted by Levi Torrison on

Most chemistry labs are of the "cookbook" style, the labs are a series of steps to perform in the alloted time and not much thought goes into the performance.  The other option is to give students a problem to solve and then give them free reign to design a lab.  Many of the students have no idea where to begin the design phase of a lab and end up just looking up a cookbook lab and trying to make it work.  The other problem with the free reign option is safety and logistics with the laboratory prep.  Is it a safe lab?  Do we have the chemicals, glassware, equipment?  This is why so many of the colleges and universities go to prescriptive lab experiences.  

Our solution is to have a prelab for each lab.  The prelab consists of a writing assignment the student must perform before they get into the lab.  This writing assignment will help them understand what they are trying to accomplish.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
CHM 152
CHM 235/6
Attachment Size
cats-152-lab.docx 13.72 KB
Average: 4.4 (7 votes)


Olga Tsoudis Sat, 09/12/2015 - 8:06pm

Levi, The writing assignment is a great addition to learning in the lab. Great idea!

Peter Turner Tue, 09/15/2015 - 10:35am

I like the "pre-metacognitive" aspect to this. I predict you will see an increase in lab quality outcomes, but am curious as to how you will assess this.

Becky Baranowski Mon, 04/18/2016 - 2:50pm

I might do this with the few labs I do in diff eq.  Mine are so cookie cutter that there is no thought process.  Can I steal this from you?

Bronwen Steele Tue, 04/19/2016 - 7:17am

I do pre-lab homework assignments. The only piece of data I obtained was qualitative - students were much more aware of what they were doing in lab and were familiar with terms as I explained what they would be doing. It saved alot of lab time, if they had questions I indicated they needed to ask their neighbor and figure it out since they worked through the material in advance. 

Erica Wager Fri, 04/29/2016 - 3:24pm

This seems like it would help students a lot in understand what you expect and what they are able to reasonably do. It also allows for more creativity I would assume! Do you compare grades of classes where you hadn't started this yet to the current class to assess if it's working? I bet student feedback would be very helpful also. Great idea!

Amy Weibel Sat, 09/24/2016 - 11:27am

It makes perfect sense!  I've been implementing a pre-lab at other colleges at which I teach with great success. Not only does this process improve the quality of work by students, but it also helps students get the work done within the time constraints of a lab period.