Wow, it has been a while since I posted. Once the semester ended, I got distracted with graduations and family matters. It was all good, but not conducive for thoughtful posting.
In lieu of a thoughtful post I am going to post about lab reports. My last post elicited a significant amount of discussion on lab reports (hey, for this blog, 9 comments is a significant amount of discussion).
Sorry I'm a little slow getting to this, but better late than never.
I teach three classes (at least last semester). General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and General Biochemistry. I have no TAs. I am the lab instructor and stockroom person. In addition to numerous faculty committees and divisional responsibilities, I have very little free time. Such is the nature of teaching at a small, private liberal arts college.
As a result, I am regularly swamped with grading.
In my General Chemistry class, every lab requires a brief lab report. I use CER labs, not because I think they are so great, but because they make things easier for me. I really wish I could do something different, but not until I have less on my plate.
In my Organic class, I do not require lab reports. In lieu of lab reports, my students must keep a well organized lab notebook. They are graded in a number of different ways. First, I give notebook quizzes. Every month or so, they have to complete a quiz using only their lab notebook. This is all designed to make sure they are recording things they should be (i.e. reactions, melting points, observations etc...) A second way is to require them (usually at the end of a semester) to repeat an experiment using only their lab notebook. The ones who keep good notebooks usually do quite well. They are also graded on technique and safety. I never grade on yield
In my Biochemistry lab, I require (usually) two formal written lab reports during the semester. The report is on a lab or sequence of labs they did during the semester.
There is great value in learning how to write a lab report, but I don't have enough time to fully grade them. As a result, I let that slide a bit.