Communication skills

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
27 Jun 2016

Making Connections between Inorganic Course Content and the Primary Literature

Submitted by Santiago Toledo , St. Edward's University
Evaluation Methods: 

I developed a rubric to evaluate student performance on this assignment. It can executed as a mixture of formative feedback, peer evaluation, or faculty feedback.

 

Evaluation Results: 

The article suggested here can be a good one, but it  suffers from being too long and it has a "shock" factor for students. I am eager to hear from other colleagues who may have found other articles that can connect multiple aspects of our courses to the primary literature.

I have not used the proposed SPECS rubric in the past.

Description: 

This assignment is intended to help students develop basic literature reading comprehension skills as well as connect the course content to relevant primary literature. Additionally the activity is coupled to short presentations that develop communication skills.

The literature activity can be done one or more times during the semester. It is best suited for a point in the semester when at least three separate major ideas in inorganic chemistry have been introduced in order to allow students to make more relevant connections. Students can work either individually or in groups of two depending on class size.

This activity is evaluated with a rubric designed to be scaffolded using Marzano’s Taxonomy of Learning.1 This Taxonomy differentiates between higher-order and lower-order thinking simlar to Bloom's Taxonomy. In contrast to Bloom's taxonomy, Marzano divides cognitive tasks between four levels: retrieval, comprehension, analysis and knowledge utilization. The first two levels correspond to lower order thinking and the last two correspond to higher order. By using the rubric, both students and faculty can determine the cognitive level of task that students are engaging in during the activity. Additionally the rubric is designed around a SPECS (specifications grading) grade model.2 The SPECS model of grading supports giving students credit for demonstrating proficiency of the learning objective with different levels of sophistication rather than awarding lower grades to students for lower quality work than what was expected initially. Since each point on the rubric addresses an objective, students at all grade levels show some proficiency with the objective.

An article that I have used in the past as an introductory article for this activity is the Kovacs paper on periodic trends (IC, 2007, 46, 9267, DOI:10.1021/ic701433p).  This article lends itself to connecting the concepts of periodic trends, basics of coordination chemistry, redox chemistry and electronic absorption spectroscopy. There are a variety of other activities in the VIPEr site for ideas of great papers that might be used alternatively:  https://www.ionicviper.org/forum-topic/good-papers-recent-literature-class-discussion

 

References

  1. Marzano, R. J.; Kendall, J. S. The New Taxonomy of EducationalObjectives; Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA, 2007.
  2. Nilson, L. Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time; Stylus: Sterling, VA, 2014.
Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

After completing this assignment students will be able to…

Comprehension (lower-order thinking)

  • Explain in their own words, in writing and orally, the key findings of experiments described in a primary literature article.
  • Summarize in a clear and concise way the findings of the article via a short oral presentation using visual aids.

Analysis (higher-order thinking)

  • Identify key logical connections between the article and concepts discussed in class.
  • Explain how inorganic chemistry theories explain key experimental results.
Implementation Notes: 
  • This is a difficult activity to do with students who have not had some level of training with engaging with the primary literature. It is intended for students who have some prior knowledge of how to read a paper.
  • Students tend to make shallow connections on the analysis parts of the assignment. It is important to give them feedback on the first iteration of this assignment in terms of what it means to make a logical connection with a proficient explanation. As stated in the description of the assignment I give feedback to my students using the rubric on the first iteration and do not assign a grade on the grade book. The second iteration of the assignment is given a real grade.
  • The purpose of oral presentation is to get students to think about ways to concisely and effectively communicate the most important aspects of their paper. Most students struggle with this the first time they do it, but with peer feedback and feedback from the rubric, students improve. This is difficult for a long paper but it is important to note that this is not a comprehensive summary but just a summary of key points. This is by no means a way to fully develop students' communication skills but it is another opportunity to practice.
  • Some students struggle with the distribution of the workload for group assignments.
  • In the past, when I get to do the assignment three times in a semester, I let students choose the third article as long as it makes relevant connections to the course content. This would be towards the end of the semester.
  • I have not used the SPECS based rubric. I don’t know how students will react to this. I have used SPECS grading in other courses with mixed reviews.
  • The students should be coached on the rubric to set expectations and so they understand what the language means. This lets them feel comfortable with the feedback.
  • Students typically spend 3 hrs outside of class preparing for each lit review. In class they do their short presentation, which is followed by questions. This takes a full class period and it might not be appropriate for some courses. Doing only the written portion of the assigment could be a good way to quickly engage with the literature and conect it to course content.
Time Required: 
One or two class 10 minutes per student.

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