Pedagogy in Action > Library > Indoor Labs > Designing Indoor Labs > Writing lab handouts

Writing lab handouts

Faculty members use a variety of methods to construct lab handouts (written material students are expected to read before the start of the lab, materials used during the lab and materials that explain post-lab assignments). In preparing lab handouts, you'll want to consider factors of length, organization, format (on paper, on the web), relationship to pre-existing student knowledge and others. Even if you are using a published lab manual for your class, you may want to consider some of the following observations.

What do students already know? (Prior knowledge and misconceptions)

SERC modules on ConcepTests, Just-in-Time Teaching and Knowledge Surveys all provide methods to determine student prior knowledge and pre-conceptions that can be extremely useful in creating and adapting lab handouts. For students, these techniques are low-stakes and also have the potential to develop students' metacognitive abilities, as they get an early glimpse of the content and methods that will be emphasized in the course and lab session. Most computer-based course management systems have functions that allow instructors to set up concept tests, knowledge surveys, and other elements of just-in-time teaching.

Giving Instructions in a handout

People vary in their ability to read a detailed list of instructions without pictures or prior knowledge of the equipment and lab situation. People also vary in their willingness to read through long blocks of text before reaching the specific instructions. In some lab settings, for safety reasons among others, it is absolutely critical that a protocol be followed exactly. These considerations make constructing lab handouts with instructions a challenge!

Designing Assignments

In designing follow-up assignments for labs, consider the following questions:

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