16 June, 2016
Lab work often needs students to work in groups. This section will present some strategies about grading lab works and providing feedback
Here are some steps when grading the final group product while considering the contributions made by individual students:
- Present the grading criteria at the start of the course, explaining how individual and group contributions will be weighted.
- Assign tasks where clear division of labor is likely and ask students to write out who is accountable for each part of the assignment in their lab reports. Individual grades will depend on how well the students finish their parts and the group grade will be an average of these grades.
- Have groups to submit peer evaluations with the final product. This will let you know how much each student contributed to the group and alert you to any possible problems.
- Have students work in groups but ask them to submit individual reports.
- Utilize grading rubrics and distribute the rubrics to the students to show them various components of their grade.
Providing Effective Feedback
- Students value instructor feedback, especially when it identifies gaps in their comprehension, is supportive, and explains how they could have done better.
- Approach student feedback as a dialogue; have the student reflect on your comments and develop solutions together.
- Adopt a non-judgmental, balanced and supportive tone while giving feedback; let the student know that you want to help.
- Grade the students on the process and thoughtful analysis rather than focusing on getting the right answer.
- Take advantage of student lab reports to determine problems and help assist the student with constructive grading comments.
- Try not to overwhelm the student; choose few key issues and help the student work through them one at a time.
- Comment on what the student could have done better rather than what the student did wrong.
- Ensure that the student receives feedback with sufficient time to learn and improve before submitting the next assignment.
- Use grading rubrics to give detailed comments and share this rubric with the student before they hand in the assignment.
- Integrate peer and self-assessments.
Improving students’ report writing skills
Although the main focus of laboratory courses is the experiment, it is equally significant that students learn to write good scientific lab reports. Below are some things that you can do to help your students improve their report writing skills.
- Explain to students the significance of writing good lab reports; discuss how writing can help them convey their ideas and think through their lab exercise and how it will be a useful skill in their professional lives.
- At the beginning of the course, distribute an example of a good lab report and talk about its strengths.
- Outline the writing standards that you anticipate from your students.
- Present the criteria that you will implement when grading the reports.
- When developing your criteria, think about how you will weigh the substance of the report (data, results, analysis) versus the presentation and organization of the material (graphs, tables, spelling and grammar).
- Ensure you return the graded lab reports with thoughtful comments and constructive feedback with enough time for students to learn from before submitting their next report.
- Announce that you will be available during office hours to help students with report writing.
- Refer students to the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines if they need additional help.