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Developing Best Practices for Teaching Scientific Documentation: Toward a Better Understanding of How Lab Notebooks Contribute to Knowledge-building in Engineering Design and Experimentation

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

Page Count

15

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34426

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34426

Download Count

32

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Paper Authors

biography

Rick Evans Cornell University

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Sociolinguist and Director of the Engineering Communications Program in the College of Engineering at Cornell University

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biography

Jeffrey Moses Cornell University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-2993-0100

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Since 2014, an Assistant Prof. in the School of Applied & Engineering Physics, College of Engineering, Cornell University.

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biography

Traci M. Nathans-Kelly Cornell University

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Traci Nathans-Kelly, Ph.D., currently teaches full-time at Cornell University in the Engineering Communication Program. She instructs within that program and is seated as a co-instructor for partnered engineering courses in the AEP, CS/INFO, BEE, Materials, and other departments. Outside of Cornell, as a member of IEEE’s Professional Communication Society, she served as a series editor for the Professional Engineering Communication books and participates at the national level for that organization. Her book, with co-author Christine Nicometo and published with Wiley-IEEE Press, is called _Slide Rules: Design, Build, and Archive Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields_ (2014).

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Abstract

Laboratory notebooks perform important roles in the engineering disciplines. They at once record an engineer’s work, serve as an important reference for future reports and/or articles, and perform as a kind of journal that enables questioning presuppositions, considering new approaches, and generating new ideas. Given the importance of notebooks, there is surprisingly little scholarship on how to teach their use. Stanley and Lewandowski (2016) surveyed students in undergraduate laboratory courses and evaluated how their notebooks were being used. They found that “few [students] … thought that their lab classes successfully taught them the benefit of maintaining a lab notebook.” Moreover, the authors’ later survey of the literature and of college faculty led them to conclude that in undergraduate lab courses “little formal attention has been paid to addressing what is considered ‘best practice’ for scientific documentation …[or] how researchers come to learn these practices” (Stanley and Lewandowski, 2018).

At XXX University, two courses, Interfacing the Digital Domain with the Analog World (AEP 2640) and Engineering Communications (ENGRC 2640) are taught in conjunction. In AEP 2640, students use a computer to control equipment and acquire measurements in an engineering design and experimentation laboratory. Laboratory activities such as the development of a computer interface for an oscilloscope, a set of motors, and a photodiode culminate in the realization of an automated laser scanning microscope system. In ENGRC 2640, students receive instruction and feedback on their lab notebook entries and, in turn, use those notebooks as a resource for preparing a Progress Report and an Instrument Design Report. The instructors encourage peer review in order to facilitate improvement of students’ skills in the art of notebook use while allowing them to develop these skills and personal style through trial and error during the research. The primary learning objectives are: 1) to enable students to engage in real laboratory research; and 2) to develop proficiency with select genres associated with that research. The educational research objectives are: 1) to study students’ developing proficiency in order to generate best practices for teaching and learning scientific documentation; and 2) to better understand the contribution of scientific documentation to the teaching and learning of authentic research. This study is a work-in-progress. We will present the study design. That design involves, first, developing a self-efficacy scale for both conducting laboratory research and performing those genres associated with that research. Self-efficacy or a “person’s awareness of their ability to accomplish a goal” (Kolar et. al, 2013) has proven to be a powerful predictor of achievement. Our intent is to track learner agency. Second, the design also involves conducting a content analysis of students’ laboratory notebooks and reports. Content analysis is a methodology that encourages inferencing "across distinct domains, from particulars of one kind to particulars of another kind" (Krippendorff,, 2019). Our intent is to learn about students' mastery of the engineering design and experimentation process through analyzing their lab notebooks. We will present the results of a preliminary content analysis of a select sample of those notebooks and genres.

Evans, R., & Moses, J., & Nathans-Kelly, T. M. (2020, June), Developing Best Practices for Teaching Scientific Documentation: Toward a Better Understanding of How Lab Notebooks Contribute to Knowledge-building in Engineering Design and Experimentation Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34426

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