Lab debriefing options

My ninth grade students enjoy doing labs. But afterward, most do not participate in the debriefing. How can I improve this? —A., Washington

You could try an alternative to teacher-led discussions. Here’s one that worked with my students.

Instead of you asking questions, assign one team of students to present their results to the class in a panel format. Before the activity, choose one team to present. You could assign members’ roles ensuring participation: Person 1 – Introduce the team and present the question, problem, or hypothesis. Person 2 – Summarize the procedure. Person 3 – Provide a display and description of the data, observations, or results, incorporating classroom technology. Person 1 (again) – Relate the results back to the question or hypothesis. Person 4 – Note any questions the team had, how the investigation could or should be done differently, and take questions from the audience.

Give the team time at the end of the activity or at the beginning of the next class to prepare. Rotate roles so the students are doing different components of the report the next time they present.

At first, you may have to model how to summarize and how to make an effective presentation (my students enjoyed it when I modeled an ineffective one, too). You may have to model how to contribute as a respectful audience member and suggest types of questions and discussion prompts: Compare their results to yours. How are they similar? Different? And as a member of the audience, you get to ask questions, too.

This may take more time, but students also get the opportunity to be presenters.

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2 Responses to Lab debriefing options

  1. Paula Young says:

    I often used a “Power Ball” and Socratic discussion with my 9th graders for a lab wrap up. I would have students write three questions before the discussion to get them started. One question was about something specific in the lab–a confusing procedure or result. One question could not be answered with a yes or no or single word and required thought (open-ended). The last one applied to the students home, community, or world. Thus, they would be asking things at three different cognitive levels. Then we would review the etiquette for passing the ball to each other. Finally, I would hand off the Power Ball to a student. Only the one holding the ball had the power to speak. The students would answer each others questions. My role was that of a facilitator: to ensure every student participated, and to get the students back on task if they strayed. The most difficult part was not interjecting my comments! I found this worked better with some classes than others. But don’t give up after the first try. Students grow more comfortable with this format with practice, and did better after 2 or 3 labs!
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  2. Mary Bigelow says:

    It sounds like a reading strategy teachers use: questions about the lines themselves, questions between the lines, and questions beyond the lines. Nice application to science! Thanks for sharing this idea!

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