Do Students Learn from Their Mistakes?

One thing that I have regretted about my laboratory sequence in recent years is that there is only the student submission and instructor grading for follow-through with these experiments and subsequent reports. My experience is that instructor grading is poor method to allow students to revisit the assignment, extend their knowledge, and learn from their mistakes. Some instructors write a lot of explanation and advice in addition to grading lab reports. Do students read this? Does it make sense to them beyond “I got it right” or “I got it wrong?” There are few things that are repeated and therefore reinforced through out the semester such as calculating theoretical yield, and writing purpose statements for experiments. For these, the student has an opportunity to correct themselves and improve as the semester goes along. Occasionally, I have done a little follow-up power point in lecture to talk about difficult concepts and questions after I have looked at their lab reports. This year, I have expanded the online discussion board in Blackboard to include not only advice to future students and suggestions for experiment improvement but also inviting students to pose questions about the labs and respond to other student’s questions. Hopefully, this will engender some online discussion around the critical concepts that students struggle with for each experiment.

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