Sunday, June 22, 2008

Poll: Recording Lab Data

A soon-to-appear article will look at learning objectives in the physics lab, but I wanted to single out one topic for its own poll:

Do your students use a bound lab notebook for all data or do you collect individual lab reports that contain a raw data sheet?

Do you require that students use (or, if your are a student, were you required to use) ink when recording lab data, and how do you punish violators?

We use a data sheet that is handed out in class or taken from the (publisher's) lab manual, and that data sheet is turned in as part of a lab report.

Our syllabus requires that students use ink, but it seems to be rarely enforced by our adjuncts and the students get annoyed when I enforce it. The really sloppy ones hate showing that they used the wrong end of the ruler, and the perfectionists hate having anything mar the neat organization of their papers. Some go so far as to use erasable ink.

I keep trying different tactics to enforce this and will try a new one this fall, but I seek any good ideas you might have (either as a student or as a teacher).


Matt said...

We have pre-printed lab manuals which describe the experiment and provide places to record data. I don't require ink though most students use it regardless. Our labs are pretty hands-on with close lots of help from the TA (me) when requested. In that kind of environment, fudging the data would be difficult and pointless since I'm actually directly watching them do the experiment and helping correct their errors.

This strategy probably wouldn't be practical for more advanced or larger labs though.

Astroprof said...

I've gone back and forth on this over the years. Obviously, if they are to reproduce "real" science, then they keep all measurements, so they should record in ink. On the other hand, they don't read directions, have to redo measurements all the time because they were careless or measured the wrong thing, and the lab reports become so filled with chicken scratches that you can't find what the final data are.