In-Lab Assignments

While your students are in the lab, they will need to create a lab report as a group that records their data and shows the results of some analyses.

In-lab assignments often start with a free-response question about the purpose of the experiment, include answer-dependent numerical questions that give your students immediate feedback about the "reasonableness" of their data and whether or not they have correctly performed the requested analyses, and end with another free-response question asking students to write up their conclusions from the experiment, including its relevance to the course objectives.

Your students should perform the experiment and collect their data before beginning the in-lab assignment. To eliminate the temptation students will have to start the assignment right away, make in-lab assignments available to your students no sooner than one hour after the lab begins.

Show correct/incorrect marks to let your students know whether there are problems with their data or analyses.

In-lab assignments should be group assignments with well-defined roles; this helps your students to work productively together. Preferably students should change roles during the term in order to practice the skills required for each role. Common roles for 3- and 4-person lab groups are described in the following table.



Manager or Organizer
The group leader who ensures that the group completes the task
  • Outlines the experiment procedure for the group.
  • Manages time. Example: "We need to wrap up this experiment in order to have enough time to discuss the questions."
  • Keeps group on task. Example: "After we finish the first part of the experiment, we should keep the equipment set up for the second part."
  • Supports participation from all team members. Example: "Henry, why don't you monitor the data display while Sue and I initiate the experiment?"
Responsible for developing consensus, recording group decisions, and submitting answers
  • Monitors and records experimental data.
  • Ensures that all group members agree with experimental results.
  • Verifies that all group members understand experiment plan and results. Example: "Does everyone understand how to run the experiment?"
  • Submits lab reports for the team.
Skeptic or Questioner
Responsible for ensuring that the group considers alternative ideas and does not draw conclusions prematurely
  • Ensures that data interpretation is correct. Example: "I think the data plot should look like this."
  • Suggests alternate methods or interpretations of the experiment. Example: "Could we interpret the data in another fashion?"
  • Questions experimental results and understanding of experiment plans. Example: "Should the experiment apparatus act like that? How do we expect it to act? Why is it acting differently?"
  • Ensures all facets of the experiment's questions and results are explored. Example: "Are we accounting for all factors?"
Summarizer (optional)
Responsible for helping to motivate the group and reiterating what has been accomplished
  • Summarizes the experiment's plan and results. Example: "To recap, the experiment referenced the energy principle, and by…"
  • Maintains group's energy through encouragement, humor, enthusiasm, or other methods. Example: "I see that we are on the right track. Good job, everyone!"

Many of the general considerations for group work are discussed in Group Work.

To implement this use case, see the following topics: