Liked and Disliked Laboratories

Laboratories are at the core of the SC 130 Physical Science. While in-class tests and quizzes provide information on academic achievement, how the students react affectively to these laboratories is also important in the course design.

Each term since the fall term 2009 I have run a survey to determine which was the students favorite laboratory and which was the laboratory they least liked.

Spring 2011 saw a shift from having the students write a laboratory report for every laboratory to having the students write full laboratory reports only for the odd numbered laboratories. This design change was made to attempt to make the course load more manageable and thus more likely to be considered for adoption by other faculty.

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. Procedure modified, simplified fall 2010 forward to use equivalent marble mass equal to 1/30th of total mass.
Laboratory six: Heat. Spring 2011: specific heat capacity exploration. Prior to spring 2011: The conduction of heat by materials connecting two 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: The colors of light via RGB, HSL, X11, and HTML. Prior to spring 2011 this was numbered as laboratory ten.
Laboratory eleven: Apparent depth, pennies underwater. Prior to spring 2011 this was numbered as laboratory eleven.
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.
93: Fall 2009
a1: Spring 2010
a2: Summer 2010
a3: Fall 2010
b1: Spring 2011

Like Dislike
Lab 93 a1 a2 a3 b1 93 a1 a2 a3 b1 Net net
1 1 2
1 2 1
2 1 2 0 0
2 1

1 0 0

1 1 1
0 1

1 1
3 3 -5 -2

1 2 1 -4 -1
6 1

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

2 4 2 7 5 6 -20 -4
10 7 3
5 7 1 2 2 2 4 11 3
1 1 1 4
-2 0
12 2 3 2 2
5 1 4 5 3 -9 -3
13 1 10 10 6 12 4 3
1 2 29 10

Laboratory nine remains the least liked laboratory both across all terms and for spring 2011. Laboratory 13 is the most liked for all terms including spring 2011. Laboratory eight remains the "most divisive" laboratory again this term with eight likes and seven dislikes.

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. At the same time, students who feel that they "cannot draw" dislike the laboratory.

The students were asked to comment on why they favored or disliked a particular laboratory.

Reasons students enjoyed a particular laboratory:

Laboratory one: I learned some soap can float.
Laboratory two: We could see and find the velocity. Fun.
Laboratory four: Because we had to find our own theories and solutions. [As part of the design, four was redone as a constructivist activity.]
Laboratory seven: I learned to find lost people.
Laboratory eight: I learned that clouds have names. I like the cloud I draw. Fun. I like to watch clouds. Easiest.
Laboratory nine: Fun walking and finding the speed of sound.
Laboratory ten: Interesting to learn about colors. Using the computer is fun. Interesting. The only laboratory I got full points. Helped me with IS 240 [web page design course] Fun to learn to make colors from letters. [Laboratory used RGB codes to generate colors in HTML pages].
Laboratory twelve: Great experience and experiments. Discovering how to light a bulb, dangers of short circuits.
Laboratory thirteen: Interesting when colors change, floral pigments interesting. Fun. Never knew this.

Reasons laboratories were disliked:
Laboratory one: I missed the laboratory [absent]. Confusing.
Laboratory two: Hot day, I got a headache,
Laboratory four: Confusing. Too long. I did not understand.
Laboratory five: Not as interesting as the others.
Laboratory seven: I failed it. Made me tired. Confusing numbers.
Laboratory eight: Hard to identify clouds. I am not good at drawing.
Laboratory nine: Difficult. Rain interfered. Clapping sound hurt my ears.
Laboratory ten: Confusing. I don't know how to tell what kind of color of everything. I do not like using computer.
Laboratory twelve: Too unfamiliar, dangerous.
Laboratory thirteen: Hard to understand chemistry.

Separately, twenty-six of thirty-two students felt that their grammar and vocabulary had improved. Five students of the 32 responded that "maybe" their grammar and vocabulary had improved. Only one student responded "no." This is a stronger positive response than the previous term where only 23 of 32 students responded positively that their grammar and vocabulary had improved. This suggests that the students still felt that their capabilities had improved, despite the reduced number of laboratory write-ups.

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