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Lab practical for final exam?

Started over 3 years ago by Sara Basiaga.

I teach a 9th grade physical science class, and my spring semester is all chemistry (atomic structure, types of reactions, thermal chemistry - very basic/intro level). One of my students proposed a lab practical instead of a final exam, and I LOVE this idea. Has anyone done something like this in their class? Does it work? Any ideas you want to share?


  • Henry Bruce

    Posted about 1 year ago

    My colleague and I split our 2 hour exam session in half with our Honors Chem students this last semester. The first hour was a lab session designed at preparing a specified amount of magnesium oxide with more precision than we typically have in lab. In other words, they needed to use our analytical balance rather than our centigram balances. We gave them the desired mass of the product, and they had to write the equation, perform the stoich to figure out how much magnesium to use, and then measure out that ideal amount into a crucible. The whole lab activity was 20% of their final, with half being their work and calculations and the other half being a reflection of how close their final weighing (which we were in charge of) was to the intended amount. After that, the remaining hour of the exam session was a typical multiple choice exam. The kids loved it, and it certainly took away the stress you commonly see from students around exams.

  • Jeremy Wolf

    Posted over 3 years ago

    I've done a practical before, but never for a final exam. I think it would be a great idea. I have attached what I did. I modified RSC labs that I found online and added questions that were directed. Feel free to use them and modify them for your purposes.

  • Sherri Rukes

    Posted over 3 years ago

    Sara,  I have tried many different versions of lab practicals.  A couple times I have done a lab practical with every unit test that I have and I even had an end of the semester lab practical for the students.  The end of the semester practicals were always done during the last week of school before finals.  When I tried it instead of a normal final exam (it was many year ago), it was difficult with the timing of everything.  Having multiple mini stations did work out the best rather than one large practical I saw and that way I could time how long to take at each one.  Also, when I did the lab practical during the units, I had two lines of stations along with a written test.  This way students worked on the lab part or the written part at the same time.  After the first test, my students learned the rotation and they were able to get up and move to the practical part when it was there time.  I would love to talk more about this if it is something you would like to know more about.  I could even share my first year chem unit ideas for lab practicals.

  • Ryan Johnson

    Posted over 3 years ago

    Hi Sara! That's definitely an awesome idea, but it does take a sizable amount of front-end work to be successful. I would also caution you, depending on your school district, you might want to check and make sure that a lab practical final is ok with your curriculum folks. I had to clear it with mine, and in fact, was only allowed to do it with my AP chemistry students, due to there being a district-standardized exam for my regular/honors chemistry course. That being said, I still have them do a "final lab project" and count it as an exam grade.
    Some examples of what I've done in the past have been the Flinn "Quantitative Analysis" lab, in which students analyze an unknown sample, using several quantitative techniques to narrow it down from a list of possibles. This is very open and inquiry-based, so students have to develop their own procedure, as well as implement it and make measurements, collect data, etc., in the lab to support their conclusion. Another is a fun introductory organic lab, such as isolation of acetaminophen or caffeine from migraine medicines.
    In both of these cases, as well as any sort of practical lab, it's VERY important to have clear expectations for students with regards to their report and/or resulting product, as well as some sort of rubric. This eases students' anxieties about maximizing points earned, and hopefully helps make the grading process easier for you! :-)

  • Deborah McManaway

    Posted over 3 years ago

    Loyola Pasiewicz, do you mind sharing that activity?

  • Loyola Pasiewicz

    Posted over 3 years ago

    I do a lab practical at the end of both semesters of chemistry and students end up saying it is challenging but also very rewarding. At the end of first semester, i have students do a types of reactions lab that they have to write balanced chemical equations including states of matter for any reactions that they see. The pre-lab portion asks questions about the substances, and reviews, atomic structure, electron configuration, periodic trends and types of bonding. It's pretty involved and does take several days of class but students enjoy it as a way to demonstrate their knowledge. In my experience, the way you set it up contributes to how well it works.