What is a foundations inorganic course? Here is a great description
The Interactive Syllabus is a web-based survey delivery of syllabus content to your students prior to the first day of classes. The web link below explains many of the features and advantages, but in my opinion some of the best benefits are (1) students actually engage with the content on the syllabus in meaningful ways, (2) it saves class time on the first day, and (3) can encourage students to share questions/concerns they may not have been as eager to share in person.
The survey is built on the qualtrics platform, but could be adapted for other programs.
I implemented the approach in my General Chemistry I course this fall, and will likely adapt for all future courses. I based my survey on the one that can be obtained at the website, but did make modifications. I have uploaded a pdf of my version of the survey, and would be happy to share the Qualtric Survey File to anyone interested (it is not an allowed file type so cannot be posted here).
I sent an email to students on Friday before classes began Monday morning containing a PDF of the syllabus and the link to the survey. I did not assign any points for completion of the survey - just asked them to do so before 8 pm on Sunday (so I would have time to review their answers). I sent a reminder email mid-day on Sunday. I had around an 85% response rate. I estimate it takes around 15 - 20 minutes for a student to work through. It took around 2 hours for me to adapt the survey to my own preferences based on my syllabus.
I use a rubric that I have developed (see attached).
They are graded out of 50 points: 5 points per category on the rubric.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).