Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lab Lament

I never thought it was a particularly challenging task. All I ask of my students is that their lab reports include why they were assigned the lab (purpose), what they did (procedure), what happened (results), and what they learned from it (conclusion). I frequently give them the purpose either in the spoken introduction or right in front of them on the lab sheet. The ideal procedure is almost always spelled out on the lab sheet. I give them data tables to fill in and instructions on which graphs and calculations to make. And I give them questions to guide their conclusions. And yet...

Today I had to explain to a student that it's not acceptable to restate the ideal procedure and then use the dummy data I had available for students who did not finish the lab instead of their own data. First of all, it's blatantly dishonest to claim to have gotten data from a particular procedure when you got the data from another procedure. Second (and much less important), how am I supposed to improve a lab if students who are confused and need to use the dummy data don't even attempt to explain what they actually did?

I did not shake this student until they rattled, but I did nearly cry with frustration.

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