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Getting students started

100% of students want an introduction*

Students may have a lab guide which they are instructed to read to prepare for an experiment. However, an introduction is still required to set or reiterate expectations.

The introduction covers the purpose and aims of the experiment, some basic theory and some tips to get started. It may be worth noting that the short-term memory can only hold 7 items.

Invite questions after the introduction to check/clarify understanding.

If an experiment has many parts, go through the first then get students together to discuss the other parts.

As the students are working on an experiment circulate around the room but don’t intrude unless you need to: let them get on with it.

Resist the temptation to butt in and solve the problems a student or a group might be having. If you see puzzled looks or people floundering, try asking questions: How’s it going? What are you doing/going to do? Why?

Try and see the problems from the students’ perspective.

If a lot of people are floundering, stop the lab and have a quick general discussion before proceeding.

Try to be aware of the whole room, so that you don’t inadvertently spend too much time with one student or group to the detriment of the others.

*Irene Barnett, Physics, “Why do students do labs?”

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