Liked and Disliked Laboratories

With the laboratories at the core of the SC 130 Physical Science fall 2010 curriculum, I ran a survey on which was their favorite laboratory and which was the laboratory they least liked. The laboratories are now gathered into a single HTML5 text that includes SVG and MathMl served as text/html (not XHTML5). As of the writing of this blog only FireFox 4 beta series can render both the SVG and MathMl. This fall the laboratories included the following topics.

Laboratory one: Density of soap
Laboratory two: Velocity of a rolling ball in the gym parking lot
Laboratory three: Acceleration of gravity by dropping a ball in lab
Laboratory four: Momentum of marbles on a ruler track
Laboratory five: Force, stretching an elastic band using a cup of marbles
Laboratory six: Heat, the conduction of heat by materials connecting Styrofoam cups
Laboratory seven: Earth, latitude and longitude, meters per minute
Laboratory eight: Clouds, drawing a cloud
Laboratory nine: Sound:, clapping wood blocks to determine the speed of sound
Laboratory ten: Apparent depth, pennies underwater
Laboratory eleven: The colors of light via RGB, HSL, X11, and HTML
Laboratory twelve: Electrical conductivity, circuits and Ohms law
Laboratory thirteen: Chemistry, acid and base detection using flowers

Students were asked which was their favorite laboratory and why, which was their least favorite laboratory and why.

This term I took advantage of the existence of four terms worth of surveys.
ps93: Fall 2009
psa1: Spring 2010
psa2: Summer 2010
psa3: Fall 2010

Like Dislike

Lab ps93 psa1 psa2 psa3 ps93 psa1 psa2 psa3 Net psa3
1 1 2
1 1
2 1 0 0
2 1

0 0

1 1
1 -1 -1

3 -3 -2

1 2 -3 -2
6 1

3 0
7 11 6 3 7 9 8 2 6 2 1
8 6 4 7 8 6 7 4 1 7 7

4 2 7 5 -16 -5
2 1 1 1 4 -2 -2
11 7 3
5 1 2 2 2 8 3
12 2 3 2 2 5 1 4 5 -6 -3
13 1 10 10 6 4 3
1 19 5

Laboratory nine is the least liked laboratory both for all terms and for fall 2010. Laboratory 13 is the most liked for all terms, while laboratory eight captured "most favored" status for fall 2010.

Laboratory eight is arguably the weakest laboratory in terms of the academic goals of the course, yet the laboratory appeals to students who find the rest of the course to be confusing, difficult, and frustrating. This is the one laboratory that provides an opportunity for success to some students who have artistic gifts but who are lost in the mathematics that permeates the other laboratories.

The student comments can help illuminate the underlying reasons for the liking or disliking of a laboratory.

Liked laboratories fall 2010
1 enjoyed it as the first lab
4 learned a lot
7 liked walking around on campus, learned to use GPS, helpful if lost, fun
8 easy, enjoyed drawing, got all the points, less work, no lab report
10 fun to use mirror, dolls, got full points
11 color has meaning, fun, got an "A"
12 electricity interesting, good to know about electricity
13 interesting to see flowers change color, amazing, funny

Least liked laboratories fall 2010

1 not fun, took time to carve soap
3 confusing
4 did not understand, tough to time marbles, got a bad grade
5 did not score high, difficult, not interesting
7 do not know how to use GPS, do not know lat/long, Google Earth confusing
8 cannot learn cloud names, the names are too long
9 hard to clap in synch, lots of walking, sunny, hot, did not understand objective
10 confusing, too much to learn, measurements hard
11 hard, did not get many points
12 no interest in electricity, lost, do not like playing with electricity
13 confusing

The bulk of the students evaluate a laboratory based on whether they had fun during the laboratory. Few rate the laboratory based on whether the goal of the lab was scientifically attainable.This term, for the first time, students liked and disliked laboratories on the grounds that they attained a high or low number of points for the laboratory. Personnel performance based comments had not been seen in summer 2010.


Students were also asked whether they felt their writing skills had improved. The course has the students writing up a formal laboratory report every week which is then marked for content, syntax (grammar), vocabulary, organization, and cohesion. Twenty-three students report that they felt their writing skills had improved. No student reported that they felt their writing skills were weaker. Seven students reported that their skills probably improved. These seven used phrases such as "I think so" and "maybe." One student reported that they did not know if their writing skill had improved. One student noted that the course had improved their control of verb tenses.

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