Thursday, September 08, 2005

PROGRESS REPORTS & GRADING

I've just finished the first progress reports entry onto the computer since I came to SC. I must admit, the programming makes it relatively easy, even for the newbie (i.e., me) to complete.

Grading and such are probably my least favorite part of teaching. Too often, I put it off until the ungraded work threatens to take over my lab table. Then, I usually complete the job in a frenzy of activity, then go home and have a stiff drink (or two). Although, the grades might be more generous if I had the drinks first.

This year, I've been using the lab notebook method. About seventy percent of what I grade is written in the notebook, which I collect about once a week. By staggering the collection schedule, I've kept the notebook grading from becoming an overwhelming task. I only grade about 20 notebooks, max, a day.

When I grade, I look for specific details - have they structured the report in the way I spelled out at the beginning of the year? Does their data table make sense? Is their graph on graph paper (stapled or taped into the notebook, hinge fashion, folded)? Is the graph "good" - scaled appropriately, labeled, clearly showing a trend that relates to the data, visually appealing? That last I encourage by occasionally making a copy of the graph, and using it on the bulletin board or web site as a good example. It spurs them to improve their graphing skills. To me, that's important; they come to realize that graphs are the favored form of communication for scientists. I like to think of it as improving their communication skills.

The rest of the grade comes from observation in labs (for that, I use a checklist - it keeps them on task), whiteboard reports, and tests/quizzes.

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