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The Labwrite Project: Experiences Reforming Lab Report Writing Practice In Undergraduate Lab Courses

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1306.1 - 10.1306.8



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Paper Authors

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Michael Carter

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Catherine Brawner

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Miriam Ferzli

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Eric Wiebe

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1526

The LabWrite Project: Experiences reforming lab report writing practice in undergraduate lab courses

Eric N. Wiebe Catherine E. Brawner Michael Carter Miriam G. Ferzli North Carolina State University

Abstract Laboratory reports have always been a part of the modern science and engineering curricula. However, it has also often been the least liked part of a students' (and instructors') laboratory experience. Despite research demonstrating the importance of lab reports to the undergraduate science and engineering lab experience, instructors are likely to minimize their use. Lab reports have been replaced with fill in the blank labs, reports that are worth only a token number of points towards a final grade, or excluded altogether. The LabWrite project has been developing online support materials to promote and support undergraduate lab report writing. A NSF-CCLI funded project, LabWrite is a web-based tool containing both static pages and an interactive tutor designed to support the lab report writing experience from before the student enters the lab through reviewing the graded lab report. Integral to LabWrite is a set of training materials for lab instructors, both faculty and graduate teaching assistants. Since 2000, LabWrite materials have been piloted in institutions ranging from Research I universities to community colleges. Our experiences and research have demonstrated the importance of lab reports in undergraduate education but have also pointed up the difficulties in successfully integrating lab reports back into courses.

Introduction Communicating scientific, engineering, and technical knowledge with clarity and understanding is a critical skill all future engineers need to have. To be able to do so is a literacy benchmark instructors strive to have all undergraduate and graduate engineering students meet. Perhaps the most important means for developing this literacy is the writing of lab reports. However, lab reports are often among the least liked aspects of undergraduate science and engineering labs, by both the student and the instructor.

From the instructor’s side comes the common complaint that there is simply not enough time to include a large number of full-length lab reports into their courses. There is not enough time to instruct students on the proper approach to writing lab reports and there is not enough time to grade the lab reports. Not surprisingly, student’s feel that they do not receive appropriate instruction on how to write an effective lab report and when they do write one, they do not receive sufficient or appropriate feedback for improving their next attempt. In fact, there is often the feeling on the part of the instructor that even if they did have the time, they don’t know how to successfully teach the art of lab report writing. All too often, they feel that teaching writing is Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Carter, M., & Brawner, C., & Ferzli, M., & Wiebe, E. (2005, June), The Labwrite Project: Experiences Reforming Lab Report Writing Practice In Undergraduate Lab Courses Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15583

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