Organising the practical

Thinking back to the practicals in the previous weeks, on rates of reaction and electrolysis, you can apply similar thoughts to the organisation of the practical.

For example, in an investigative approach, you may wish students to choose their equipment, if you want to check that they understand the appropriate choice for the activity, such as using the correct sized measuring cylinder for the volumes required.

At other times you might want students to focus on collecting and analyzing data, so here setting up and preparing as much equipment and reagents as possible will enable them to have more time for the data collection and analysis.

It is worth considering how the progression of skills within practical chemistry can be assessed. If students have done something before (such as measuring gas volumes) then reduce the information given to a bare minimum. Consider having “help cards” which they can use if they get stuck. This approach also works well with conversions of units and equations and helps a teacher identify if a student needs support. Generally, an assumption of “students can” rather than “we need to teach it them again” can be very useful if they have covered similar skills in the past.

Consider as well how the practical is to be packed away when it is finished. Minimising waste and reducing student movement can help an activity run more smoothly.

Classroom task

For a practical you intend to teach soon, consider how you will inform students of the learning intentions and how the practical will be organised. How did focusing your practical on fewer learning objectives (planning and collecting data only or collecting and analysing data only etc.) support formative assessment of your students’ learning?

If you have done so recently, or are able to report back on your lesson, share your experience in the comments below.

Review each other’s comments and reply to provide helpful ideas to improve teaching and where an idea might work in your teaching context.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre