Labs for standards

Sorry, I don’t mean having standards (as in standards-based grading) for labs. Rather, I mean having the work done in labs be in support of standards. Here was my great brainstorm of the day that I added to my syllabus-in-progress for my Physics of Sound and Music course:

We will use lab time to pursue investigations of the topics we’ve discussed in lecture. We will finalize our lab plans every Tuesday, since everyone has lab on Wednesday (though not all together). It will be expected that you use the data collected in lab to support your standards assessments (both the in-class quizzes and out-of-class videos).

It’s been something like five hours since that little nugget came out of my brain, and I’m still excited about it. In the past I’ve incorporated labs into my SBG setup by having standards like “I can measure the optical activity of Karo Syrup.” In other words, labs just added more standards on top of what we were doing in the “lecture” portion of class. I mostly liked that approach, as I felt the philosophy of the class carried through to the labs, but I think I might be more excited about this approach.

My hope is that we develop standards like “I can identify and discuss the formants of a human voice” in class, then determine what sort of data collection we’ll have to do in lab to support that, and then that they’ll use that data to answer quiz questions like “Why can’t everyone be a great opera singer?” (btw, I’m not quite sure that’s accurate, but I read somewhere that your formants help determine how much you can project your voice.) Their score on that quiz (or out-of-class video, which they’ll have to do for re-assessments) will be somewhat dependent on how they incorporate their own lab data.

Up-sides: I think this can really help focus the lab time. I’m certainly hopeful that using Tuesday “lecture” time to plan the labs will produce some cool plans, but I think this puts a little meat into that, since their data will determine how well they can do on their assessments. We plan to have an assessment per “lecture” day, with only one lab for every two of those, so it’s likely that not every standard will have data, but that should lead to some good discussion in class about both the standards and the labs. I also really like how this meshes with my standards-based grading philosophy, as it’s all about learning, and the lab is just another place to get that.

Down-sides: The labs could not work, or be crappy, or miss the point. If they get bad data, they’re screwed, though perhaps we could build in some make up time or something. I also think it’s going to be tough for me to steer this class, though I’m trying to let that go a little.

So what do you think? I’m sure I’ve said this a bunch of times, but I have to say that I love using this blog to firm up my syllabi. Thanks in advance! Here’s some comment starters for you:

  1. Cool idea, here’s a great quiz question for ______.
  2. Crappy idea, there’s no way that a lab on ______ would work for this approach.
  3. I’m registered for this class, and, like your last post, I would like to know how I can drop.
  4. I’m registered for this class and I think this could be a cool approach to lab. I haven’t liked other lab classes because _______.
  5. I’m registered for this class and I think this is really going to suck and here’s why ________.

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
This entry was posted in sbar, sbg, syllabus creation, teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Labs for standards

  1. Mika Millard says:

    I’m a little concerned with how these labs will work with the quizzes. I haven’t really responded to the other posts because the real technical jargon flies over my head (hence the class). However, I do understand how labs and quizzes can go wrong when “tied” together. My real concern focuses on how results of a lab could be waaay off. When they’re off, the quiz scores could be affected. It’s hard enough having a lab give completely crappy results; it ‘s aweful to do badly on a quiz and potentially have no idea why.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mika. You raise a great point, and I think it’s something I/we will have to watch closely. Let’s take doppler data. You measure a whistle’s frequency when it’s moving and when it’s not, and compare. In lab, we’d probably do a lot more than that, but perhaps that could be the level of enough data to answer a quiz question. Plus, we’d have multiple quiz questions over the course of the class on the same standard, so there’d be time to collect better data somehow.

  2. Kareem Tawfic says:

    I’m excited to see how this all works out; it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into this. I must say that I do share a little bit of Mika’s skepticism with respect to the relationship between lab work and quiz performance and how it should be treated. It makes perfect sense that we learn the material first during lectures and then put it into practice during the labs; however, “[using] the data collected in lab to support your standards assessments” would suggest that we do the reverse. Unless the standards assessments include perhaps procedural lab questions rather than substantive ones that may rely on skewed data, student grades may be subjected to the errors that frequent lab work (especially the lab work done by amateurs like most of us). I’m not sure… I guess I’ve always just thought of the road between lecture and lab being one-way, starting with lecture and ending with a lab.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      I used to think of the lecture/lab relationship the same as you, Kareem, but my physics teacher buddies have convinced me that it certainly can go the other way, and possibly both ways in a class. Physics teachers who use the Modeling curriculum would normally say that experimentation/observation should come first, then some theorizing and model development. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Joss Ives says:

    Hi Andy. I really like this idea in terms of being a very tangible connection between “lecture” and lab, which can often get lost.

    To ensure that a given student’s or group’s lab results don’t sink them in terms of a later quiz, it seems like pooling data would be a great way to go and then they can use/reference the pooled data in their later assessments. Of course, where along the inquiry curriculum your labs lie is going to dictate how reasonable pooled data will be.

    As usual, I’m very excited about what you are up to Andy. And I completely agree that discussing a syllabus and course plans out in a public forum is the way to go.

  4. Pingback: Sound and music update | SuperFly Physics

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