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Synopsis Laboratory Reports: Effects On Student Learning And Curricular Benefits

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Student Learning Techniques & Practices in Engineering Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1134.1 - 13.1134.16



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Paper Authors

author page

David Hoffa none

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Steven Freeman Iowa State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Synopsis Laboratory Reports: Effects on Student Learning and Curricular Benefits Introduction

This study examined the effect on student learning of writing laboratory (lab) reports in the synopsis format versus the traditional format of the field of industrial technology, as well as the benefits of reduced instructor grading time and reduced student writing time. The synopsis lab report format, if able to provide students with an equally effective learning experience as the traditional lab report format while requiring less of an instructor’s time for grading and freeing up a significant amount of students’ out-of-class study time for other assignments, would be beneficial to instructors who choose to adopt it and to their students.

Laboratory Reports in Industrial Technology

Many industrial technology programs incorporate both a lecture component and a laboratory component in order to help students increase their understanding of the curriculum. Felder and Peretti9 stated that “a basic tenet of learning theory is that people learn by doing, not by watching and listening. Industrial technology accreditation requirements emphasize the importance of laboratory experiences.18 While some researchers11,22,6 question the value of lab experiments, there is no doubt that the lab experiment is a commonly employed teaching tool in industrial technology. The purpose of laboratory experiments in industrial technology is, as Gillet, Latchman, Salzmann, and Crisalle10 said, “…to motivate, illustrate, and enlighten the presentation of the subject matter addressed in the lecture” (p. 190).

A written report often follows the lab experiment in order to cause the student to reflect on, summarize, and quantify the laboratory experience. To learn by doing in the laboratory, followed by reflecting on that experience and writing about it in the form of a report, can only further enhance learning. Lederman16 stated that “the assumption that students are likely to learn the nature of science through implicit instruction (i.e. performance of scientific inquiry with no reflection on the nature of the activity) should be called into question” (p. 928). A well-designed lab report asks a student to reflect on the activity, the assigned readings, and the lecture content, and synthesize these into a new, succinct document. These are the primary goals of the synopsis lab report format.

Traditional Laboratory Reports

The traditional lab report, for the purposes of this study, was defined as a report in which subjects may take as much space as they wish in order to report the information in Table 1. The traditional style of lab report is written chronologically, similar to other documents that have the purpose of reporting work. Students present the reason for the work in an introduction (the before), detail this work in a body (the during), and report its outcome in a conclusion (the after).8 For the purposes of this study, subjects were required to separate the conclusion into two separate sections: the discussion and the conclusion. The discussion section was the place to discuss the experiment, the procedure, and the results, while the conclusion was a brief section that attempted to tie the experiment to the curricular content.

Hoffa, D., & Freeman, S. (2008, June), Synopsis Laboratory Reports: Effects On Student Learning And Curricular Benefits Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3650

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