June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Electrical and Computer
13.832.1 - 13.832.7
LAB REPORT WRITING (AND TEACHING!) MADE EASY
This paper reports on a project to improve students’ ability to write better lab reports and assist teaching assistants (TAs) in grading reports in a consistent manner. A lab report teaching system was developed that includes lab report templates, teaching assistant instructions, grading rubrics, examples, peer review materials and instructions, and recommendations for quickly providing student feedback (grading). These materials were developed for project-based labs across the electrical engineering curriculum and utilize methods to write weekly lab updates that are combined into a final lab report, mimicking methods commonly used in industry. The technical writing information was adapted to all levels of complexity to help students from freshman through senior years. The system begins with instruction on writing very basic reports, and builds each year on previous knowledge and practices, to prepare students to later write complex reports. This system is designed to improve students’ understanding of labs (by ‘writing to learn’) in addition to preparing them for the communication intensive workplace. The amount of time spent grading such reports is often a primary concern, as this is commonly given as a reason for not requiring advanced writing assignments in engineering classes. Detailed guidelines and grading rubrics are included in this manual to instruct TAs on better and more consistent grading techniques. Guidelines for checking both lab books and formal lab reports help improve TA training and grading consistency, reducing student complaints. Although this system was designed for an electrical engineering program, it can also be adapted to other technical fields and used for various scientific lab reports.
Improving Teaching and Learning
This paper describes a project focused on the departmental goal to improve students’ ability to write excellent lab reports and assist teaching assistants (TAs) in grading reports in a consistent manner. It was developed to help train new TAs to continue the success of a new curriculum shift towards project-based learning1. This new curriculum includes more writing to help students process what they are learning and includes project-based labs to help students understand the relation between individual and system-level concepts.
New Teaching System
In order to train TAs, a lab report teaching system was developed and made available through a website5. This system includes TA instructions, resources for conducting a lab overview, lab report templates, grading rubrics, examples, peer review materials and instructions, and recommendations for quickly, but effectively, providing students with constructive feedback. This section describes each of these resources in more detail.
TA instructions are essential to having successful TAs. Answers to commonly asked questions have been compiled and included on the website to provide TAs with all the information necessary to prepare for and conduct lab sessions. Some of the instructions may be department
Magleby, A., & Furse, C. (2008, June), Lab Report Writing (And Teaching!) Made Easy Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4343
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