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.

The course is not listed as a requirement by any major at the college, thus the course most frequently serves students taking the course to satisfy their general education science with laboratory requirement. The students are not planning a career in science and likely contain a larger percentage of students for whom science is not attractive as a subject of study. A goal of mine is to open up the thinking of the students. My best hope is that through the course the students will come to have an interest in science, see that even simple topics can be interesting, and gain an appreciation of how science is done.

As an affective learning domain study, students were asked to choose their favorite laboratory and provide comments on why that laboratory was their favorite. The students were also asked to choose their least favorite laboratory and explain why they disliked that laboratory.

Twenty-five students of the twenty-eight students in the course were present on the day of the survey and completed the anonymous survey.

The laboratories this past term were:

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 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.
Laboratory eleven: Apparent depth, pennies underwater.
Laboratory twelve: Electrical conductivity, circuits and Ohms law
Laboratory thirteen: Chemistry, acid and base detection using flowers
Laboratory fourteen is a laboratory practical examination and is not included in this survey.
Laboratory fifteen is a term wrap up laboratory designed to go beyond the usual science/math box.

The terms are coded in the data table further below in the following manner.
93: Fall 2009
a1: Spring 2010
a2: Summer 2010
a3: Fall 2010
b1: Spring 2011
b3: Fall 2011. Survey not compiled.
c1: Spring 2012

The survey results were compiled and are reported below. The laboratories are listed on the left side, the terms across the second row. All net is the sum of the like votes minus the sum of the dislike votes. The last column, c1, is the spring 2012 likes minus the dislikes.

Like Dislike all c1
Lab 93 a1 a2 a3 b1 c1 93 a1 a2 a3 b1 c1 net net
1 1 2
1 2 2 1
2 1 2
2 2
2 1
1 2

1 1 1 1

1 1
2 -2 -2

1 1 1
3 3 4 -8 -3

1 2 1
-4 0
6 1

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

2 5 4 2 7 5 6 2 -17 3
10 7 3
5 7 2 1 2 2 2 4 2 11 0
2 1 1 1 4

0 2
12 2 3 2 2
1 5 1 4 5 3 3 -11 -2
13 1 10 10 6 12 7 4 3
1 2 3 33 4

Spring 2012 laboratory thirteen was the most favored laboratory with seven likes. On aggregate laboratory thirteen was still favored with a net of four more likes than dislikes. Laboratory 13 immediately precedes the survey, this may bias the results. The students, however, seem to truly enjoy working with test tubes and mixing chemicals.

Spring 2012 four received the strongest negative rating, but only by one more vote than 8, 12, and 13. The votes do not add to 25 as three students said that they had no disliked laboratories while two others split their votes among two laboratories.

In the affective domain, the proof is in the details and the individual comments by students provide this insight. The comments are gathered together with multiple responses collected under a single laboratory listing.

Reasons why a laboratory was liked:

Laboratory one: I learned many shocking things. It was the first laboratory I've ever done and it was fun and I learned a lot.
Laboratory two: Easy making tables and charts.
Laboratory four: I just learned from this laboratory that when on marble hits 4 or 5 marbles on the ruler track, one marble goes out, and when two marbles hit the 5 marbles, two marbles go out.
Laboratory seven: I learned more about longitude, latitude, using a GPS. It was nice having this laboratory outdoor because I like being outside getting some fresh air. I like the hide and seek one because I have never used a GPS before and that activity let me touch it and explore with it. I liked the fact that I had to see which direction that the GPS would show me to find the missing person. I thought it was very hard, yet its fun.
Laboratory eight: Most easiest. I like drawing. Easiest ever, no full lab report.
Laboratory nine: Because I like to search around in the caves and even in the forest and when I make sounds its has echo. So I now know how to how the speed and the sound it goes. I learned that there was a mathematical relationship between the distance and the speed of sound. Very interesting. Not knowing that echoed sounds can be counted. Because we used the GPS to determine distance.
Laboratory ten: I learned about web page making. I was amazed by all the different kinds of colors and the code. I learned that all colors have codes.
Laboratory eleven: Because we saw things that seems to be at top of things or other side of things but they are just illusion or imaginary. I thought that I saw what I see but I do not.
Laboratory twelve: I gain more knowledge to improve my job and home.
Laboratory thirteen: I had to see the different kinds of solutions that the chemicals would have to change the floral liquids. I loved mixing the acids, bases, and neutrals. I really felt like a scientist working on the color fluids. It was so interesting when we boil the flowers and looked at the color it changed to. Very interesting and fun at the same time. It is something I can do at home. It's my first time  doing this kind of experiment and it is interesting. I really like the way we mix those flower to the vinegar, ammonia, diluted bleach, etc. I like the way it changes the color.
All of the laboratories are fun and interesting.

Reasons why a laboratory was disliked:

Laboratory two: I felt little interested in this laboratory because I don's like the rolling of the ball and measuring and calculating it. I did not get how much distance does the ball did when we roll the ball.
Laboratory three: I did not learn well, needed more time on it.
Laboratory four: My lab partner and I are not communicating well. They were speaking Pohnpeian to each other and I have to sit quiet and listen to them to finish talking and then I can ask something. I just don't think it was interesting. It was an indoor laboratory and I don't like marbles too, would be better if the location changes. We could learn it using a different exercise. I don't get the idea how to find the solution for the momentum. This lab is kind of confusing.
Laboratory six: Because I don't like heat and fire, it makes me feel bad and uncomfortable.* I hate somethings that involve heat, make me hate heat and not interested in it.
Laboratory seven: I dislike it because that day very hot and I get tired of walking. The worst part was walking under the hot sun.
Laboratory eight: Because I didn't really memorized of learned the names of the clouds. I really don't know how to draw. I really don't know how to draw a cloud so I've got only six points out of this laboratory.
Laboratory nine: Tired of walking around under the sun and my ears almost blown off.** I was so tired when we walked around campus measuring the speed of sound, under a hot, sunny day.
Laboratory ten: I don't really find color interesting. There's just too many to memorize and yet a person will not learn all the colors until he/she passed away, normally. I disliked this laboratory because this is the only laboratory that I get a bad grade on it, [otherwise] I really enjoy doing all these labs.
Laboratory twelve: It was sort of confusing.
Laboratory thirteen: I got so confused on which chemical that should be acid, base, or neutral.

* Laboratory eight boils water on a hot plate but does not involve fire.
** The laboratory includes clapping wooden clappers to produce an echo. No explosives are used and no one's ears were actually blown off.

The comments always provide interesting and useful insights. Laboratories are often liked and disliked for the same reason: being outside. Some like being outside, others do not.

The one comment on Pohnpeian being spoken and thus excluding the partner was the first time I have seen this comment. This is something of which I will have to be aware and help the students also be aware of. Even when shifting to L1 to explain a concept to a partner who cannot access an idea in L2, lab groups will have to ensure speakers of other languages are not left out.

Laboratory four has gone well in the past. This term I was not feeling well that day and my own energy levels were flagging. I did not provide enough conceptual framework up front and the groups foundered when left to their own devices. The result was a confusing laboratory that lost the spirit of exploration. The comments will inform assessment and subsequent learning modifications to laboratory four as well as the other laboratories.

Comments that note a laboratory was interesting or fun directly support my own goals in the course. Once something is interesting and fun, the student becomes a self-driven learner. And learning only really occurs when a person wants to learn. If I can generate the desire, then the learning can follow. 

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