Students are quite capable at producing tables and graphs in a report produced using spreadsheet and
word processing software.
Performing and writing up the mathematical analysis was more difficult for the students.
First lab modified to address this earlier in the term.
Conclusion (lab discussion) scores suffered because of the lack of results (analysis) to discuss.
A rubric based directly on the entrance essay rubric was used.
Grammar, vocabulary, organization, and cohesion scores were fairly strong,
with grammar the weakest area of the four, especially where grammar "meets" science.
When students attempt to wrestle their grammar around an explanation of a phenomenon,
their difficulties with choosing the correct prepositions is often
problematic and obscures clarity of meaning.
Marking load is "heavy". Up to eight hours per weekend/every weekend.
Seeing the students wrestle with science in their own
words is nothing short of exciting. One student noted, "I found out
that when a ball falls from a higher distance it is much faster than a
ball falling from a lower distance. The graph made a curve. Our
hypothesis that we wanted to prove was true." One student reflecting on
the difficulty of timing the falling ball by hand noted, "It's hard to
find the exact time, because the changing of the velocity." That is a
core concept underneath acceleration: the velocity is changing as the
Science as the result of the concurrence of a community of scientists
was captured in a note by one student, "Each group seemed to had [sic]
fun measuring the time and distance of the falling object. Not only did
each student stuck [sic] to its group, they went around the room
comparing their results with other groups. Asking questions such as why
both data did not seem [sic] to relate to each [other]. The questions
led to going through the experiment again."
Another influencing factor was my desire that the laboratories should be, if possible, fun.
Learning requires motivation.
Simply telling the students that they need to learn XYZ does nothing to ignite motivation.
I wanted the students to enjoy the laboratories,
associate the laboratory experience with pleasure and not frustration.
Not only does this buy "mind time" for learning, this may also encourage a student who
dislikes science to change their mind and think about the possibility of a future career in science.
Few students taking a typical physics course think,
"Oh, this is fun, this is something I want to do for the rest of my life."
Yet physics is fun, as are the rest of the physical sciences.
Seven students who liked science before the class still like science after the course was over. While one student lost some enthusiasm for science, no student went from liking science to disliking science. I did not "turn off" anyone.
Eleven students went from a neutral attitude to liking science, while three remained neutral towards science.
The exciting news is that seven students went from disliking science to liking science. Underlying this change in attitude was student enjoyment of physical science class. Twenty-five students reported enjoying the course, only one dislike the course.