Grading freshman lab reports=hilarious

  • #1
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So I am a TA for the Frosh Gen chem lab and I just got back their 1st lab reports to grade. Oh man I haven't laughed so hard in a while. I have seen a ton of reports w/ data points and when they graphed it they simply connected the dots instead of fitting a best fit linear line :rofl: . I also have a ton of reports w/ axes mixed up :rofl: , no conclusions or calculations :rofl: , papers w/ no name :rofl: , wrong papers handed in :rofl: . OH man you freshman are HILARIOUS! Maybe -20 pts off will teach you :devil: . LOL i will be lenient this time.
 

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  • #2
Pengwuino
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Destroy them! Burn their papers infront of them!

I remember some of the freshmen in my chem class connecting the dots and i'm just like "..... pathetic".
 
  • #3
Moonbear
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Well, I guess it's better that you're laughing rather than crying. I was horrified the first time I had to grade lab reports and sat there staring at 30 lab reports, of which only 2 had proper grammar (one person didn't even manage to spell her own name right...she spelled it differently on every assignment she handed in :confused:). The TAs were required to write at least one positive comment on every lab report, and some were joking that the best they could think of on some was "at least you spelled your name right" and I had to tell them I had one that I couldn't even write that on! We had some very simple instructions to follow that would have gotten them quite a few points just for following instructions, not even thinking, and many didn't even do that (like writing the name of the species studied in the title...it was a "give me" two points instruction). Oh, then again, the way the course director had set the grading scheme, it was actually possible to give a student negative points. They didn't like it very much when told the big fat 0 was being generous. :rolleyes: Fortunately there weren't too many of those, but I had one section one year that had a group of 4 students who seemed to be competing for the lowest score...lab reports that bad are just plain painful to grade; they should have just saved their tuition money for buying beer since those 4 must have been spending all their time partying anyway.

A word of warning...no matter how lenient you think you're being, they'll still complain you deducted too many points. Don't take it personally. Make a list of the funniest conclusions or methods, etc., and share it with the other TAs...it'll keep you from crying.

Oh, and how many, "The printer jammed as I was printing it just before class," or "The computer ate it" type excuses did you get?
 
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  • #4
ranger
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You guys should not make fun of them like that. If a majority of the class made that mistake in graph plotting, you as the teacher should try to correct them instead of making fun of them and "burning the papers".
My views are probably different since I'm a student and dont know what you guys go through in grading.
 
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  • #5
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Well, I guess it's better that you're laughing rather than crying. I was horrified the first time I had to grade lab reports and sat there staring at 30 lab reports,

::Sigh:: I have almost 100 of these things to grade.


You guys should not make fun of them like that. If a majority of the class made that mistake in graph plotting, you as the teacher should try to correct them instead of making fun of them and "burning the papers".

Its one of things you aren't supposed to laugh at but it is funny as hell.
 
  • #6
Moonbear
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ranger said:
You guys should not make fun of them like that. If a majority of the class made that mistake in graph plotting, you as the teacher should try to correct them instead of making fun of them and "burning the papers".
My views are probably different since I'm a student and dont know what you guys go through in grading.
It would depend on how many times they were told to plot a best fit line rather than connecting the dots. If it was only said once or someone assumed they should know this, then I agree, it is best to correct this mistake and let them know what they need to do next time. On the other hand, if they are told 20 times and have written instructions that say the same thing, and still didn't follow the directions, sometimes you need to shock them into paying attention. If you're a good student and know how to follow directions, you'd be truly appalled to see how many students don't. Their high school teachers did them no favors by being lenient about those sorts of things.
 
  • #7
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nonono, they have every right to laugh. I'm gr 12 and we have been expected to produce lab reports properly since gr 10. I don't think there is much of an excuse for a university student to not know how to spell their own name or to not know to show sample calculations or not know that the x axis is the horizontal one!!! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
 
  • #8
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gravenewworld said:
::Sigh:: I have almost 100 of these things to grade.
I truly feel for you. Try to keep in mind that many of these students had no proper lab courses in high school, so have little to no experience writing lab reports. Oh, and they don't think that "See me during office hours so we can discuss how to improve your grade," is a positive comment. :biggrin:
 
  • #9
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gravenewworld said:
So I am a TA for the Frosh Gen chem lab and I just got back their 1st lab reports to grade. Oh man I haven't laughed so hard in a while. I have seen a ton of reports w/ data points and when they graphed it they simply connected the dots instead of fitting a best fit linear line :rofl: . I also have a ton of reports w/ axes mixed up :rofl: , no conclusions or calculations :rofl: , papers w/ no name :rofl: , wrong papers handed in :rofl: . OH man you freshman are HILARIOUS! Maybe -20 pts off will teach you :devil: . LOL i will be lenient this time.
Did you see them turn each point into a bar as though it was supposed to be a bar graph?

As a professor, I find the reports less hilarious and more of an aching headache, especially when the students tell me it's my fault for not teaching them the difference between a best fit line and a bar graph. You know, the sort of thing they teach around, oh, grades 3 - 5.

The sad part is when they seem to correct the behavior and then the wrong behavior reappears on the final.
 
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  • #10
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ranger said:
You guys should not make fun of them like that. If a majority of the class made that mistake in graph plotting, you as the teacher should try to correct them instead of making fun of them and "burning the papers".
My views are probably different since I'm a student and dont know what you guys go through in grading.
Do you have classmates that complain that it's all the teacher's fault?

That's what we go through. Students who aren't taking ownership of their education. I can't force someone to learn something if they aren't interested in working. I don't care if they don't want to learn, but don't blame *me* for it.

These complaints of mine correspond to the lower third of the class. The upper third takes ownership and learns the material. The middle third works hard and sort of gets it. It's the ones that think that there is some magical way that they will learn the subject matter without any effort, and then blame the teachers and the school when it doesn't happen, that I could do without.
 
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  • #11
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If I had been doing this stuff for years I probably wouldn't find it funny anymore, but this is my first time every grading anything.
 
  • #12
Pengwuino
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ranger said:
You guys should not make fun of them like that. If a majority of the class made that mistake in graph plotting, you as the teacher should try to correct them instead of making fun of them and "burning the papers".
My views are probably different since I'm a student and dont know what you guys go through in grading.
Hell I'm a student too :D. And lab instructors aren't suppose to teach them... and they should have known this stuff a looooooooooong time ago.
 
  • #13
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ranger said:
You guys should not make fun of them like that. If a majority of the class made that mistake in graph plotting, you as the teacher should try to correct them instead of making fun of them and "burning the papers".
My views are probably different since I'm a student and dont know what you guys go through in grading.
Come on! Basic graphing skills. It should be assumed everyone knows how to graph, and if they can't, well they better get some help from the teacher or friends. I mean, in my Biology class almost everyone knows how to graph perfectly well and I am in highschool. The fact that the class is an AP class is totally irrelevant :uhh:
 
  • #14
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pattylou said:
Did you see them turn each point into a bar as though it was supposed to be a bar graph?
:rofl: Oh, and there's always one in a class who decides they will make their report "fancy" by using some weird font printed in purple and plays with all the chart options in excel and for some incomprehensible reason, settles on a pie chart.
 
  • #15
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Oh man, my freshmen aren't that bad.
 
  • #16
ranger
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It should be assumed everyone knows how to graph
Come on! Basic graphing skills. It should be assumed everyone knows how to graph
When you guys are saying graphing, I'm think about using a program such as MS excel or mathCAD. Not the usual graph paper and pencil. I'll admit that I could not graph using excel until I entered college. I could not even use excel. There was no need of me to. Becuase in high school we used graph paper. But thats just me I guess.
 
  • #17
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gravenewworld said:
Oh man, my freshmen aren't that bad.
I think it's a bit worse in Freshman biology classes. We get a lot of the "my parents said I should be pre-med, so I'm stuck taking this class" students. We also had about 600 students in the course, so you're bound to land a few prize winners with that many (I was head TA for a year, so got to review all the other TAs grading...I asked them to give me their lab reports ranked high to low, so I could quickly scan the range of their grades to make sure they were being consistent, so I got to see the worst of the worst...and the best of the best...don't forget about them...there are the few who will just knock your socks off that they can do so well as a freshman). My favorite students though, have always been the ones who start out mediocre and put in real effort, show up at office hours every week, and suddenly you watch that light bulb turn on in their head as everything starts to click for them...they're the ones that will keep you coming back to teach year after year, because they're the ones who you know really needed you to guide them through the course and truly learned something they didn't know before they started.
 
  • #18
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rocketboy said:
nonono, they have every right to laugh. I'm gr 12 and we have been expected to produce lab reports properly since gr 10. I don't think there is much of an excuse for a university student to not know how to spell their own name or to not know to show sample calculations or not know that the x axis is the horizontal one!!! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
when i retook grade 12 the english teacher i had was one of the ppl in charge of one of the groups of people (other teachers, english students, etc) who graded the provincial english exams. whenever someone came across a paper that criticised the BC education system it was read out loud to the room & everyone would laugh & laugh. that's what he said anyway.
 
  • #19
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fourier jr said:
when i retook grade 12 the english teacher i had was one of the ppl in charge of one of the groups of people (other teachers, english students, etc) who graded the provincial english exams. whenever someone came across a paper that criticised the BC education system it was read out loud to the room & everyone would laugh & laugh. that's what he said anyway.
I've heard stories about teachers laughing at kids while marking the provincials as well. Because the exams get marked more than once they just sit as a group and mark them while in the same room. So when one teacher comes across a funny mistake or whatever he says to the others "WOW, check out this moron", or something like that. I've heard this sort of tale from more than one teacher who has marked provincials in the past.
 
  • #20
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gravenewworld said:
So I am a TA for the Frosh Gen chem lab and I just got back their 1st lab reports to grade. Oh man I haven't laughed so hard in a while. I have seen a ton of reports w/ data points and when they graphed it they simply connected the dots instead of fitting a best fit linear line :rofl: . I also have a ton of reports w/ axes mixed up :rofl: , no conclusions or calculations :rofl: , papers w/ no name :rofl: , wrong papers handed in :rofl: . OH man you freshman are HILARIOUS! Maybe -20 pts off will teach you :devil: . LOL i will be lenient this time.

Non-majors? Keep in mind that 99/100 of these people have never had a lab course before this, and will never again take another. These are the people who elect the Proxmires to congress, and who may become Proxmires themselves, teachers to muff the education of coming generations, managers in control of your research budget, and you're going to laugh at them, make a big joke of the PR job you're doing for the sciences and science funding?

You're in charge of the first, last, and only chance to reach the general public about the sciences. Don't get too cute with it --- the laughter is going to be entirely at your expense.
 
  • #21
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"Non-majors? Keep in mind that 99/100 of these people have never had a lab course before this, and will never again take another. These are the people who elect the Proxmires to congress, and who may become Proxmires themselves, teachers to muff the education of coming generations, managers in control of your research budget, and you're going to laugh at them, make a big joke of the PR job you're doing for the sciences and science funding?

You're in charge of the first, last, and only chance to reach the general public about the sciences. Don't get too cute with it --- the laughter is going to be entirely at your expense."



They are non-chem majors, but 95% of my class are engineers so I do have higher expectations from them. I have no idea what kind of background these kids are coming from, but trust me these problems will be thoroughly addressed next lab period.
 
  • #22
ZapperZ
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This thread gave me some "amusing" flashback.

When I was an intro physics lab TA many years ago, one of the major complaints of many students was that the "standard" lab reports for many courses are "on file" with many students and many frat houses. This isn't surprising, or new. I decided (with permission of the course instructor), to make minor changes to the lab instructions. For example, instead of measuring something using one technique, I instead brought up another equipment to measure it. In another example, instead of looking at the spectral lines from all of the discharge tubes using a spectrometer, I gave them all only H2 souces to practice on, and then gave them an "unknown" source for them to indentify [the spectral lines for a number of elements were given to them]. To make it even MORE interesting, I have each group in the lab a different unknown light source, so one group may end up with Ne, another He, another Kr, etc.

Well, guess what? During the 1st few weeks after the lab session started, I began to receive a number of lab reports that contained write ups on things that either weren't done because the section was omitted, or cannot be done because the equipment was just wasn't there! I distinctly recalled a report that has an exhaustive description of the results of an experiment that could not be done because we no longer even have a working setup for that.

Needless to say, these students had quite a time explaining themselves to me and the instructor. This is as close to getting caught with your hands in the cookier jar. And you'll be surprised how quickly word about this passed through the whole class. From that point onwards, I think people started to pay attention and actually DID the lab and the report and not simply copying off some pre-made ones.

And oh, the students were simply given verbal warnings and no displinary actions were taken under the condition that they don't do this again. They didn't.

One could argue, why even bother? If they didn't care learning about these things, it's their own loss. It also took a lot more effort on my part trying to redesign the experiment, and then having to go through the "faulty" reports. I think I did it to be fair to the students who actually DID spend time doing this on their own rather than to catch those who were simply copying off their reports. I didn't see it as being fair to those who ethically did the work themselves, and then see someone else who simply copied off another work and got better scores. Then what incentive is there to actually do the work?

In any case, looking back, I think the proper balance was restored after that. :)

Zz.
 
  • #23
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I was a TA for 3.5 years (a year and half was as an undergrad- since my previous department had a lack of graduate students then). Having to teach discussions (the supplement to the lecture) and take classes as an undergrad certainly changes your view of education (and straightened me out pretty quick). Anyways, the amount of whining and asking for points back on homework became so insane and time consuming that for the last year of my teaching we actually had to stop giving partial credit on homework and giving the first year physics classes multiple choice tests. So these notions about take it easy on the students and it is the teacher's responsibility to teach them and make them understand this stuff is almost angering to me. This is exactly what is wrong with the majority of college students in the US. The notion that the professors and teachers are supposed to make you learn instead of taking your education into your own hands and taking responsibility for it. Now, luckily, my old school had a lot of non-traditional students- people coming back to school to get a degree after working for sometime. They made a lot of it very worthwhile to teach. They showed that they were trying to learn and came to your office hours to learn, not to have you do their homework for them. I love to teach, but it can definitely go from being hilarious to tedious and grating very quickly. After you have explained to them 3 times not to do something on their homework and they come to complain about points- see how easy it is to keep your cool. :yuck: Thank god for fellowships though- no teaching unless I really want to from now on! :smile:
 
  • #24
Moonbear
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Oh, ZZ, I wish my students would have gotten word around about things like that. We would change subtle things from year to year (we'd change the species of plant, or increase the concentration of an unknown, or tell them to write up sections 1, 3 and 5 instead of 2, 4 and 6 of the lab), and would always get reports turned in that were from the previous year, and they would do the same on the second lab report too. But, worse, when you told them they wouldn't be getting credit for someone else's work, they just tried to make up excuses about how those things wound up in the report rather than accepting that they were caught cheating.

But, I agree, it's not something you do to just nail the cheaters to the wall, but to make it fair for those who put in an honest effort and really earned their grade. On the other hand, we had some draconian rules to enforce regarding exams that I hated (TAs were the enforcers, the course director made the rules...that was the part of the job that really sucked, to have to enforce rules you didn't agree with), but they were all put in place because of the cheaters, and because it has gotten to the point where all the legal interference (students lawyer up if you try to fail them for cheating!) has made it impossible to just do it the old way...if you get caught cheating, I take your exam away and send you home with a big fat zero. It got to the point that a student couldn't even bring a bottle of water with them to the exam because the frats coordinated it so their smarter members would write answers on cans or bottles and "accidentally drop" them and let them roll to a student in front of them. If some of these students put as much effort into studying as they did into coming up with new ways to cheat, they could have gotten A's in the course on their own merit.

Bystander, it's not really laughing AT the students, you don't do this to their faces, it's just laughing at the humor in their mistakes.

Just to give you an idea of things that are truly stupid mistakes due to lack of thinking rather than lack of knowledge, one of my all-time favorite answers on a practical exam was for a station that had a pin in a structure in an eyeball (the lens) with the question: "Name this structure used for focusing light." The answer given was, "Rectum." Even if you're just taking wild guesses because you really aren't sure what the pin is pointing to, at least guess something that's in the eye, or just write "eye." I don't laugh at a student who can't remember the names of every structure in the eye, or never really learned to identify what each one looks like, or even one who just leaves the space blank or writes "I don't know," but I do laugh when I see an answer that suggests they don't know their eyeball from their rectum! Really, the alternative is that I'd cry to see how little some learned after a semester of biology. It also gets harder to not cry and cringe when they don't learn from their mistakes. When you tell them to do a best fit curve instead of connecting the dots on a graph, and they connect the dots, and you then spend time in the following class correcting this and they lose points on their report for it, it is really painful to get the second lab report and see how many are STILL connecting the dots! I take that as a sign that they just don't care about the course or their grade.
 
  • #25
ZapperZ
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Norman said:
Now, luckily, my old school had a lot of non-traditional students- people coming back to school to get a degree after working for sometime. They made a lot of it very worthwhile to teach. They showed that they were trying to learn and came to your office hours to learn, not to have you do their homework for them.
Oh, thanks for bringing this up! I want to say that I LOVE these people! They may be a bit slow in trying to get up to speed with the basics (especially the math), but man, they REALLY want to learn! It was a joy to hang around these older students because you can see in their faces that they're doing this because they wanted to, and they realized how important the material is. Having talked to them and knowing a bit of what they did, I sometime included examples that they were familiar with. It only made the class that much more enjoyable.

Zz.
 

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