Communication skills

8 May 2018

Developing Effective Lab Report Abstracts based on Literature Examples

Submitted by Katherine Nicole Crowder, University of Mary Washington
Evaluation Methods: 

I use a rubric that I have developed (see attached).

They are graded out of 50 points: 5 points per category on the rubric.

Evaluation Results: 

Most students score between 40-49 on this assignment. They mostly lose points for grammar, including things that they shouldn't (which hits them in two categories - conciseness and only relevant information included), and forgetting to write a title.

Description: 

For inorganic lab, I have my students write their lab reports in the style of the journal Inorganic Chemistry. The first week of lab, we spend time in small groups looking at several examples of recent articles from Inorganic Chemistry, focusing mainly on the experimental section and the abstract (as these are included in every lab report). We then come back together as a class to have a discussion of each of the sections in the articles. We discuss what was included in each section, what wasn’t included, and the style, tone, tense, and voice of each section. I keep a running list of what we discuss to post on our CMS. It is a great opportunity to discuss the expectations for lab reports for this course (and they feel like they have a say in what they will be expected to include), and it is also a time to highlight what may be done slightly differently in inorganic versus some of the other sub-disciplines.

Following this discussion, I provide them with another current article from Inorganic Chemistry, except this time I have removed the abstract and all identifying information (authors, title, volume, page numbers, etc.) using editing (white boxes over the information) in pdf. Their assignment is to read through the article and then write their own title and abstract, keeping in mind the elements of our discussion as they write.

Since this is very early in the semester, I try to choose an interesting article that won’t be completely over their head. I also stress that they don’t have to completely understand the results to write about them, as they are usually summarized nicely in the conclusions section. Since I expect them to focus mainly on their results in their lab report abstracts, I try to choose articles that have a lot of numerical and spectral data to incorporate.

This year I chose

Systematic Doping of Cobalt into Layered Manganese Oxide Sheets Substantially Enhances Water Oxidation Catalysis

Ian G. McKendry, Akila C. Thenuwara, Samantha L. Shumlas, Haowei Peng, Yaroslav V. Aulin, Parameswara Rao Chinnam, Eric Borguet, Daniel R. Strongin, and Michael J. Zdilla

Inorganic Chemistry 2018 57 (2), 557-564

DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.7b01592

The students are evaluated based on their inclusion of the aspects of abstracts that we discussed, their summarization of the main findings of the article, and their grammar.

Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

A student should be able to:

  • Identify common aspects of sections of literature article examples, namely the abstract and experimental section
  • Read a current literature article from Inorganic Chemistry and identify the main findings in order to write their own abstract for the article
  • Use these experiences to guide their writing for lab reports for the inorganic lab course
Equipment needs: 

None.

Implementation Notes: 

I bring 3-4 examples of articles that have abstracts that incorporate elements that I want them to include in their lab report abstracts. I bring 3-4 examples of articles that are mainly synthetic for their experimental sections, as that is what their labs will be mostly. I post these examples to our CMS after lab.

I split students into groups of 3-4 to look over the articles, then we come back together as whole class for the discussion. It is interesting to see what the different groups pick up on.

I bring my tablet to take notes on during the discussion, then post that on the CMS as well.

I have posted the discussion summary from this spring.

Links to the article I used for the abstract writing assignment and the articles I used for the in-class discussion are below.

Time Required: 
30-45 minutes
22 Jan 2018

Streamlining Lab Report Grading: Errors Checklists

Submitted by Sabrina G. Sobel, Hofstra University
Evaluation Methods: 

Errors Checklists are most effective when you list the most common errors with explanations. You will see if you are successful if you use the items on the checklist repeatedly in your grading. Students will better understand their grades because of the clear communication of their errors. You should see a reduction of student inquiries as to why a certain grade was assigned on lab work.

Evaluation Results: 

My students really appreciate the errors checklists because my expectations and my grading choices are made clear. I have found that the formulation of Errors Checklists cause me to focus on and articulate the most common students errors; I subsequently pay more attention to the items in my pre-lab lectures, and student misunderstanding has decreased.

Description: 

I present a format for more effective communiction of errors in lab reports to students that I term Errors Checklists. Grading lab reports are one of the banes of our existence as professors. They are endless, unremitting papers that need to be scrutinized for accuracy, precision and understanding. Instead of tearing your hair out at the fifteenth report in which the student failed to use to proper number of significant figures, or failed to produce a readable graph, why not just breezily check a box on your Errors Checklist (in which you have provided a complete and thoughtful explanation), and staple to the student report?

I have created and used Errors Checklists for General Chemistry and Foundations of Inorganic Chemistry lab classes for almost two decades. I have passed them on to junior colleagues in my department, which they have modified to suit their needs. Errors Checklists lower my anxiety and anger when grading multiple lab reports, and provide clearer communication with students.

Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Topics Covered: 
Learning Goals: 

1. More effective communication of student errors on lab reports.

2. Streamline lab report grading to enable quick turnaround to students.

3. Better communicate expectations on lab reports to enable students to improve performance during the semester.

Equipment needs: 

None.

Implementation Notes: 

You need to develop your own Errors Checklists customized for the experiments in your curriculum. A template is provided. I have included two example checklists; the first is for a Chemical Kinetics lab in which students determine the orders WRT iodide and peroxide for the iodine clock reaction. The second is for the synthesis of potassium alum from aluminum foil, with supplemental analysis of the unit cell (available online).

Time Required: 
not applicable
10 Sep 2017

Inclusive Pedagogy: A Misidentified Molecule and Paper Retraction

Submitted by Sibrina Nichelle Collins, Lawrence Technological University
Evaluation Methods: 

This LO has various options for evaluation. First, a rubric should be prepared based on criteria identified by the student teams for evaluating the team posters. The students will be evaluated based on their ideas and attention to detail for their individual  reponses to the discussion questions. In addition, a 7-question survey is included in the handout for the students. Four of the questions address self-efficacy questions for chemistry majors. These questions were modified from a self-efficacy instrument developed by Baldwin et al for biology students. I have included a link to the model. We should be developing assessment tools that address science identity, sense of belonging, and self-efficacy for chemistry majors. If a student does not feel comfortable in a chemistry course, they will likely not pursue a career as a chemist.

Evaluation Results: 

Will be reported later.

Description: 

This learning object focuses on teaching students how to read and use Chemical and Engineering News for class discussions and critically evaluate the scientific literature. Recently, Chemical and Engineering News published an article about the retraction of a 15-year old paper, which had misidentified a multidentate ligand, which is central to the paper (Ritter, S.K. “Chemist Retract 15-year old paper and publish a revised version.” Chem. Eng. News, 2017, 95, (36), p6). The authors published a revised paper to the journal in 2017, with the correct structure of the ligand along with an x-ray crystal structure. This activity consists of two components, namely the students working in teams to discuss the C &E News article, retracted Inorganic Chemistry paper (DOI:10.1021/acs.inorgchem.7b01932) and the revised paper (DOI:10.1021/acs.inorgchem.7b01117) and preparing a poster for a “Gallery Walk.”

Learning Goals: 

An important learning goal for this learning object is to incorporate practices for creating an inclusive learning environment for students (inclusive pedagogy). The goals for this LO are for students to:

  • Read and use C&E News for student-led discussions
  • Critically evaluate experimental evidence published in the scientific literature
  • Apply concepts learned in previous chemistry courses
  • Gain a better understanding of the peer-review process for publication and retraction
  • Appreciate the importance of structural analysis tools such as X-ray crystallography
  • Prepare a team poster to communicate scientific ideas
Corequisites: 
Equipment needs: 

The students will need 3M Post-IT paper and markers to prepare a poster for the "Gallery Walk."

Prerequisites: 
Course Level: 
Implementation Notes: 

You will need to provide access to the Chemical and Engineering News article, and the two Inorganic Chemistry articles before class. This activity will likely take two class periods The first class period should focus on discussion of the articles and developing a rubric for evaluating the posters with the class. The second class period, the students will be allowed 30 min to prepare a poster for a "Gallery Walk."

Time Required: 
Two 50 min class periods
3 Mar 2017

In-class peer review

Submitted by S. Chantal E. Stieber, Cal Poly Pomona
Evaluation Methods: 

Student participation was evaluated during the in-class portion based on the questions students asked. 

The formal peer review homework was evaluated based on completion, level of thought and thoroughness.

Evaluation Results: 

Overall, students were very interested in this topic and had not formally learned about the process before. There was a very lively discussion and a lot of questions were asked. All students received full credit for participation. 

Similarly, once students received their classmate's paper for peer review, they took the process very seriously and carefully went through the paper and answered the worksheet questions. 

I was very impressed by the high quality of the formal peer reviews that were turned in as homework. Students clearly spent a lot of time to carefully think about the paper and craft a reasonable response. Most students received full-credit. 

Description: 

This activity includes questions for students to answer to help guide them through the process of peer review. It was designed to assist students in writing peer reviews for research reports written by their classmates, but could be applied to literature articles as well.

Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

A student will be able to:

-Explain how the peer-review process works

-Critically read through a research article

-Carefully review a research article

-Write a professional peer review

Implementation Notes: 

An overview of peer review was given with three powerpoint slides. Students then worked through a modified Q&A of the peer review module "Peer Review - How does it work?" posted by Michael Norris on VIPEr. This provided students with an example of real reviews, along with the resulting article revisions. 

The current worksheet was then passed out to students along with a research report written by one of their classmates (I assigned these and removed names). In class, students answered the questions on the worksheet and were able to ask questions of the editor (the instructor in this case). Following the in-class peer review, students had to write a formal peer review, which was turned in as homework. 

The peer review was a final component of a research report that students had been working on throughout the course. The final report was turned in after students had received the review comments back from their peers. The grade of the final report took into consideration whether or not students had made modifications based on comments by their peer reviewer.

 
Time Required: 
60 min
3 Jan 2017

Strategies for Effective Science Writing

Submitted by Anne LaPointe, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University
Description: 

This presentation is designed for senior undergraduates or beginning graduate students who need to write a research report or paper.  It was originally developed for the summer undergraduate students in the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers.

Topics Covered: 
Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
Course Level: 
23 Oct 2016
Description: 

See the attachement. 

Topics Covered: 
Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
8 Jul 2016

Developing a rubric for a learning object

Submitted by Joanne Stewart, Hope College
Description: 

A rubric articulates the expectations for an assignment and enables faculty to assess student work in a rapid and consistent manner.

This Five-Slides About was developed for the TUES 2016 workshop Organometallica at University of Michigan. It was presented in conjunction with Chip Nataro's modeling of the development of a literature discussion learning object (Ligand effects in titration calorimetry from the Angelici lab).

The PowerPoint contains examples of different types of rubrics, describes a resource with many examples of rubrics, and introduces the development of a rubric for the Angelici literature discussion learning object.

 

Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

Faculty will be able to describe what a rubric is and be able to write one for a student assignment.

Implementation Notes: 

At the 2016 workshop, participants worked in small groups to develop the rubric for the Angelici learning object. 

Time Required: 
The presentation takes about 15 minutes. Asking participants to actively construct a rubric takes longer.
Evaluation
Evaluation Methods: 

Faculty were asked to write descriptions of "excellent," "acceptable," and "needs work" responses for two of the questions in the Angelici learning object.

Evaluation Results: 

The participant-sourced rubric will be published with the Angelici LO. During the rubric writing exercise, faculty learned that writing a rubric is different than writing an answer key. Some participants wrote their rubric and then realized that they wouldn’t be able to share it with students because it contained the answer. They went back and changed the language so that it described the EXPECTATIONS for what a good answer would contain and not the answer itself.

1 Jul 2016

Szymczak Learning Objects from TUES workshop

Submitted by Adam R. Johnson, Harvey Mudd College

The memebers of the Szymczak group created a collection of their learning objects from the TUES workshop at the University of Michigan in Summer 2016 to make them all easier to find.

Subdiscipline: 
Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
Course Level: 
27 Jun 2016
Evaluation Methods: 

The practical exam (uploaded) is used as a metric to determine how well students are capable of answering a science question they haven't seen before on their own.  In other words, the practical exam tests them on their understanding of the material, and the scientific method itself.  If you'd like to measure this against students who have performed the experiment, but did not participate in a discussion session following the experiment, the practical exam scores should give you a measure for how students compare.  The questions asked on the practical exam are designed to be as objective as possible to eliminate variation in grading between sections.

Evaluation Results: 

TBA.

Description: 

This learning object is aimed at getting students to think critically about the data they collect in lab as they collect the data similar to how chemists typically conduct research.  They will be given a pre-lab video and a procedure prior to lab, conduct the experiment, and then upload their data to an Excel spreadsheet.  Students will then stay in their group to discuss the questions given to them on the worksheet in class with the instructor, and are allowed to continue working on them as a group up until the due date.

Class data from the original experiment will be uploaded to a public Excel spreadsheet that students will have access to in lab and at home, where the averages and standard deviation will be automatically calculated for them.  Students will be responsible for all other statistical analysis.  TVs, computers, or projectors are required in the lab in order to project data to the students.  Directly after the experiment, students will enter a discussion section with a worksheet to work on as a group that relates the collected data back to the original lecture on the topic covered in the experiment.

Course Level: 
Prerequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

The purpose of this Learning Object is to teach students not only a difficult concept such as "what is electrochemical potential", but also to teach students how to think about a science question, write a hypothesis, write a procedure to answer said hypothesis, analyze the data, discuss the results as a group, and make a conclusion about their original hypothesis.  Although this learning object is written for a general chemistry electrochemistry experiment, it can be easily modified to fit any laboratory experiment in any level of college chemistry (including organic chemistry, biochemistry, etc.  The end of the semester for a course that incorporates this template involves a practical exam.  In this exam, students are given a science question related to one of the experiments they conducted during the semester such that they use the same techniques used in the original experiment, but answers a far different question.  With their laboratory notebooks and previous procedure available to them during the exam, the instructor will be required to not assist the students (outside of safety and waste disposal concerns) in any way regarding the exam.

Corequisites: 
Equipment needs: 
  • TV, computer or projector to project data for students to look at class data.
  • Proper aqueous solutions and electrodes needed for the experiment outlined in the experimental procedure.
  • If desired, a potentiostat.  However, students should be able to design simple galvanic cells to answer the questions.
  • Solutions should be prepared before the laboratory experiment and practical exams are administered.  However, it is up to your discretion whether you want your students to also make the solutions themselves.
Implementation Notes: 
  • Lab should take ~2-2.5 hours
  • Discussion should be ~1 hr
  • DIfferent practical exams for different days in which the lab is being taught, in order to prevent students from sharing what the lab is about
  • Students should know what experiment the practical exam will be based on, but should not know the exact question being asked until the day of the exam.
  • Worksheets should be due 1 week after the lab, even though students discuss the questions that day.  This gives them time to complete the assignment.
  • Questions on discussion worksheet should be difficult, given that they have the instructor and students within their group to talk to for help.
  • For the practical exam, the solutions should be prepared beforehand to focus their efforts on answering the questions rather than making solutions and preparing to answer the questions. However, it is up your discretion.
Time Required: 
~3-4 hrs

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