I was working tonight on a Lab Report for an upper level Undergraduate Physics course. My friend who took the class last year gave me the report he did and received a grade of 95%. I go into my work session with a set of goals for my report based on what he wrote, but as I am writing and thinking about the experiment I am coming up with new questions, learning more, realizing important things he failed to mention. And for each goal I check off I've created a new one. Here's an example: 1) For the lab we are given the relevant equations used in the lab. For the report we are expected to expand on their derivation. For the lab we are determining the electron charge to mass ratio. My friend went through the derivation of the final equation used to get a value for e/m, fairly simple given the hints in the lab instructions and final equations. It's all well and dandy to know how to use the equations and how to derive them, but isn't it more important to know how the person who came up with the experiment went from "How can I measure the electron charge to mass ration?" to designing the experiment? So I challenged myself to think like an experimentalist (granted I was given some direction from the hints). I knew that the Lorentz Force Law is the basis of the experiment so I tried to think how someone could have came to the conclusion that it should be used. Here is an excerpt from my lab report (with some additions in italics and parentheses): Getting a ratio of the charge to mass of a subatomic particle via direct measurement of charge and mass is difficult if not impossible. It would instead be better to relate the charge to mass ratio to parameters that can be easily measured. Force Laws, which can always include one of the variables of interest, mass, are a good place to start. (Newton's Second Law and Conservation Laws are always a great place to start. Generalizing Newton's Second Law to all Force Laws isn't a stretch. Previously I had learned that the initial motivation for this experiment was the quest to explain the nature of cathode rays which had led to observations of them being affected by magnetic fields which led to theorizing they were made of charged particles which led to wanting to know what the charged particles were. The Lorentz Force as a starting point would make sense. So next would be thinking about the what the physical meaning and consequences of the Lorentz Force law and see where that gets you.) The Lorentz Force in particular is central to this experiment for two reasons. Firstly, a consequence of the Lorentz Force is that a uniform magnetic field will cause charges will follow circular paths of motion without effecting their speed. Secondly, the Lorentz Force equation gives a relation between the force on a particle and it’s charge. For these two reasons, for an electron with circular motion due to the Lorentz Force, the equation for centripetal force from classical mechanics which involves electron mass can be set equal to the Lorentz Force equation from electrodynamics which involves electron charge to give an expression involving both of the variables of interest. That was just the beginning of my quest for learning, but I think it makes my point. As a result of my quest for learning I'm really no closer to completion of the assignment, but I've learned far more. But here's the problem. I've got other assignments to do. I can't afford to spend any more time on this one. With only so much time till the deadline for the assignment my options are 1) ignore the deadline, really learn from the assignment, and lose points for turning in the assignment late. 2) settle for learning what I have so far, hastily finish the assignment, and lose points for mistakes due to having to rush. Now I'm going to lose a large portion of credit regardless what I learn or the quality of work I eventually turn in. Grade wise, I would have been better off completing the assignment like my friend, learning nothing, but getting it in on time with proper formatting and such. The trade off is learn less and get a better grade, or learn more and get a worse grade. Surely the goal of education is to learn, so why am I being penalized for learning more? You could say that my greater understanding and knowledge will benefit me in a career someday, but the careers I want require I go to grad school, which I may not get into because I am passed up for the people who have opted for the "learn less and get better grade" option. It's frustrating because I've dealt with this my entire educational career. Not just in one class, one department, or even one institution.