June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.554.1 - 13.554.9
Enhancing the Laboratory Experience Using Peer Evaluation of Group Laboratory Reports in a Fluid Mechanics Course
Peer evaluation of laboratory reports has been found to be a valuable tool in a junior level fluid mechanics laboratory. Readily available equipment makes it possible to have separate experiments investigating applications of the mechanical energy equation to nearly ideal venturis, an array of flow meters, an array of various fittings, and a single pipe. Having each group of students carry out all four experiments and report on the results can lead to equipment utilization conflicts, student exhaustion, and a lack of attention to detail in the final laboratory reports. In spring of 2006 the author decided to streamline this segment of the laboratory by having each laboratory group (typically teams of four students) perform and report on only two of the four experiments listed above. They were, however, required to provide peer evaluation of the reports of another student group for the experiments which they did not personally carry out. These peer evaluations were then compared with the instructor’s evaluations of the same reports and feedback was given to both the group being evaluated and the evaluators. The expected benefits of this change were reduced stress on the students, increased student understanding of and appreciation for the laboratory report evaluation criteria, broader understanding of frictional losses in pipes and devices, and better utilization of the available laboratory equipment. Results from both spring 2006 and 2007 confirmed that the students did an excellent job of assessing the reports submitted by other groups, and exam performance confirmed their understanding of the processes involved in experiments which they evaluated but did not carry out. However, student performance on future laboratory reports did not improve significantly, as had been anticipated. In other words, although students could clearly identify the strengths and the weaknesses of laboratory reports written by others, this did not translate directly into an improvement in their own reports. Future efforts will focus on using this experience not only to reduce student work load and enhance learning, but also on using the experience to help students improve their own reporting skills.
The importance of technical communication skills for engineering graduates is clearly recognized1 and is emphasized in desired outcomes stated by departments, universities, and ABET. The time pressures of a typical laboratory course often lead to last-minute writing with little time spent in reflection and review2. Stephen Brookfield3 speaks to the heart of the teacher when he describes our motivation to instill habits of self-evaluation and peer evaluation.
“Sooner or later students leave the intellectual enclave of higher education and return to the workaday world. For them to have acquired the habit of examining their own work critically as a detached observer is an incalculable benefit”. “Likewise, for students to have learned something of the art of peer evaluation – of giving helpful critical insights to colleagues and intimates in a manner that affirms rather than shames – develops in them in them a capacity that will be sought out by their peers for years to come”.
Shaw, D. (2008, June), Enhancing The Laboratory Experience Using Peer Evaluation Of Group Laboratory Reports In A Fluid Mechanics Course Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4322
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