content top


Inquiry: How can I improve students’ comprehension of lab activities and communication of well thought conclusions?

Characteristics of Substances Experiment Outline

Characteristics of Substances Experiment


Student 1

Experiment #1

Experiment #2

Student 2

Experiment #1

Experiment #2

Read More


Inquiry: How can I help 2P’s write conclusions in a more effective manner?

Summary of tasks:

1. Diagnostic writing activity (Dancing Raisins) -students collected some straight forward observations and were asked to independently* write a conclusion for the lab. No instructions were given about how to write a conclusion or what information should be  included. (* I stressed the importance of writing independently and explained to them it was a part of a project that I was doing, to which they actually listened and did work independently). From this lab, I marked their conclusions and determined which students I would track. Example of lab sheet included in Appendix A. …Unfortunately I can not locate the copies of the student work.

2. Second writing opportunity (Chemical vs. Physical change) -students were instructed to write a conclusion “what did you learn, refer to the purpose of the lab”. Conclusions were not evaluated, I gave written feedback only. See Appendix B

3. Third writing opportunity (Ionic vs. molecular compound) -some guidance was given for writing the conclusion for the next lab. On the chalk board I wrote a sort of “fill-in-the-blank” style of conclusion. Students then had to fill in the missing information from their lab results. This, it turned out, was not an effective way to help students. Also the concept being taught in the lab was a difficult one for students to grasp; therefore writing the conclusions became even more difficult. Examples of student work included. Appendix B

4. Teaching time -for the next several labs there were some time gaps and absences due to illness and no school days. Because of this, I took a different strategy and used the “gradual release of responsibility” approach. We had done several labs in a row, but had not had time to do much reporting or concluding, so I took the opportunity to work on writing several conclusions in a row. These happened in stages. Together as a class we made a board note that focused on these questions: Students came up with the answers to my questions:

a. Why write a conclusion?

  • To summarize the information that you have gathered
  • To have something to study from
  • To answer the question/solve the problem

b. Why kind of information should conclusion contain?

  • The answer to the question or problem
  • Include the problem/ question re-stated
  • Evidence to back up or explain your answer

I then took the information that they came up with and put it into a logical order for a conclusion and created a rubric for it. …*see rubric “SNC 2? Writing Conclusions” Appendix A

5. Anchor Charts -From these last three bullets we re-ordered them to what they thought was logical and came up with the information on the flip chart paper. The information on the flip chart paper was colour coded for the three pieces of information to include:

a. What is the purpose of the lab? What is the question you are trying to answer?
b. What evidence or data to you have to answer the question?
c. Can you use that evidence to write a “therefore” statement to answer the question and/ or solve the problem?

We then worked together as a class to write a conclusion for one of the labs we had recently completed (Molecular vs. ionic compound) that they had had difficulty writing a conclusion for. The example was then colour coded to show where the parts of the conclusion were, and what the information was. See f’lip Chart #1 Appendix C

6. Anchor Chart #2 -The next step involved the students working in groups to write a conclusion for the Law of Conservation of Mass lab. This was a difficult concept for them to write about because there were two teacher demonstrations that showed different results. Students worked in partners, used the results from the demonstration and the colour coded flip chart. They wrote a conclusion with their partner and then shared it with the class. After each group shared, I gave oral feedback on what was good about their conclusion and what they need to improve for the next time or if they have made incorrect assumptions (which some did). At this point I shared the “SNC 2P Writing Conclusions” rubric with them, they were able to see that rubric is very closely linked to the Anchor Chart. See flip Chart #2 Appendix C and Examples of student work. Appendix B.

7. Another Lab (Rates of Reaction) -students completed the next lab “Factors Affecting the Rates of Reactions” and wrote their own conclusions with some guidance and help from my self or their peers. Conclusions were assessed and feedback was given using the same rubric. See student work included Appendix B.

8. Yet another Lab (PH of household substances) -students worked with various household substances to determine their pH using cabbage juice as an indicator. The purpose of the lab was written on the board and the results recorded there also. Students wrote their own report, including a conclusion. This was also assessed. See student work included Appendix B.

9. Summative lab (Antacid report) – As the final task in the chemistry unit, students were asked to determine the most effective antacid out of four tested. They were to plan their procedure (a difficult task for them -a lot of guidance was given) and conduct their lab. Some students did not use their time effectively and ran out of time to complete all the tests. This made it difficult for these students to write a clear conclusion. The one difference with this lab (other then it was Summative) was that they had the opportunity to use the computers to type up their report and conclusion. I think that the use of computers was particularly helpful for many of the students in my class, but it did increase the task completion time. Appendix B.

10. The most recent (and probably last) conclusion that student wrote was based on their experiences at Wawanosh Conservation area where they assessed the abiotic and biotic factors and overall health of the Belgrave Creek. The marks for these conclusions have also been included in the data, but student work has not been included.

Results: Students were selected for “tracking data” based on their previously assessed writing abilities, their attitude in class (perceived willingness to learn) and their attendance. I felt that these factors were all important because to otherwise select students would lead to false data or no data at all!

If you want to see a trend in this “data” I suppose that it would be a slight improvement for all students shown here, but realistically that is not enough data to support any kind of “scientific conclusion” (how ironic). Looking at whole class data I could see this same “general” improvement in communication ability, see Appendix A page 3.

Some anecdotal conclusions can be made just through observing student behaviour, effort and understanding during the time we were working on writing conclusions.

  • Students really became familiar with using the Anchor Charts; you could see them turning their heads to read the information on the side board to help them remember what to do.
  • Students became more confident about writing conclusions. There was much less “what do I doll don’t get it” questions and expressions on their faces.
  • Students were able to complete the task of writing a conclusion in a much shorter time frame. With confidence comes speed!
  • Even without looking at the “data”, as I have marked the conclusions I can see that their writing and understanding of what a conclusion means has improved.
  • This project resulted in more assessments being marked which meant that I got behind with my marking and students did not always get the immediate feedback about their conclusions that they could have benefited from.
  • I will do this again with 2P’s, I think that it had helped both them and me have a better focus when it comes to doing lab work.
Read More



How do I improve students’ written responses to questions?

Gord Gillespie from Kim McGill on Vimeo.

Read More



How can I scaffold student work to improve student learning and how can I help students use scientific vocabulary?

Barry Brohman from Kim McGill on Vimeo.

Read More



How can I help student write concluding statements that reflect upon observations and connect with the purpose of the lab?

Cynthia Stone – Conclusion Writing and Science from Kim McGill on Vimeo.

Read More
content top