Creating Integrated Experiment Instructions

A complexity of teaching science is doing experiments in a way that maximises the learning gains of students. Generally speaking teachers have some specific learning outcomes from planned experiments, but these can be quickly lost as students experience cognitive overload from using unfamiliar equipment, reading unclear instructions, trying to remember the last set of verbal instructions, and arguing about who is going to light the Bunsen burner.

To overcome the intrinsic cognitive load that comes with experiments I have been making integrated experiment instructions using an amazing (and free) online tool called Chemix. After some trial and error I have been producing instructions similar to what is shown below.

Example Integrated Experiment instructions

Here is what I have learned as (what I think) is the best way to design these integrated instructions:

Start with Chemix and layout the equipment with plenty of space for adding notes later. Ideally layout the equipment in order of use from left to right and top to bottom, because this will make it easier for students to read and follow. Try to show process in the diagram, so the substances going into a beaker are directly above it. Don’t add notes using Chemix, I find this a bit clunky. Instead download the diagram as a JPEG and insert this diagram into Microsoft PowerPoint.

In PowerPoint add the notes that instructions and numbering of instructions using arrows and text boxes. I find it is much easier to do this annotating process in PowerPoint that it is in Microsoft Word. Again, use the rule of left-to-right and top-to-bottom with the ordering of instructions. Once you have finished annotating select everything and copy to clipboard ready to be transferred to Microsoft Word.

Next use the ‘Paste Special’ function In Microsoft Word to paste the instructions as an image. Then you can add titles, more integrated experiment instructions, follow up questions etc. Below are a set of integrated instructions that I used for a set of experiments used in a lesson looking at states of matter, the particle model, and sublimation.

 hope you find this blog post useful!

Dan (@dan_braith

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