Writing Up a Practical

I suspect this will be the most contentious piece I’ll write, but I’ll hide it in “Resources” and it’ll never be found!

I have particular views about write-ups, and I tend to be pretty uncompromising about them, on the perhaps tenuous basis that many years ago I have had a couple of papers published on experimental Physics.

In KS3 and Ks4 the idea of an “investigation” is rather silly – the kids do not know enough about Physics, or even the kit that a department possesses, to design and test anything but the most trivial hypotheses with uninteresting experiments. Why then are we routinely expecting them to include “hypothesis” and “evaluation” in their lab reports – especially if it is an experiment we gave them instructions for in the first place? I know you can answer “because the ISAs require it”, but they’re gone now – and really?  Once again the hypotheses are so trivial there is just no need to have been reinforcing the process through the previous however many years. You are teaching them that science is trivial. As for “evaluations”, what can they evaluate? You are encouraging them to write “I enjoyed it and I think we did it well”. Who cares!!??

And so these are our write up instructions that must be followed throughout KS3 & 4 if they want a decent effort grade :


and the glossary:


For the level our boys work at, and certainly with a parent’s help, I regard the “Method” portion as pretty self explanatory, and so requiring these instructions to be followed frees up our marking effort of comments and advise for direction at what I regard as the hard bits – drawing and interpreting the graphs.

Just as an aside:

In a recent inspection of the department it was suggested that our exercise books were a confused mix of write ups, notes and problems. I’m trialing these lab books from Rhino for all write ups with a Y10 group to see whether this helps. So far it is going very well and I suspect that next year we will be rolling lab books out across more of the department.

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