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Comparison of 2008-09 Optics Lab survey to 2009-10

I have listed the responses to the same questions from last year to this year. I thought
it would be interesting to see the trends. Not all trends are positive. While I can
attribute some of this to timing of the survey (this year students took it after taking a
difficult unit test) and the differences in the two classes, I’m sure that some of it is
significant.

The 08-09 results appear first, with red comments from last year. This year’s
comments are below the question in blue.

These results are essentially the same. What they don’t reflect is the fact that we did
the optics lab as a second lab after the sound lab. To me, this year’s class had
significantly more preparation in how labs should be completed, although they did not
necessarily know that.
This is a slight shift in the positive for this question. While I still don’t think students
need exemplars of the exact lab, I think I need to shift my thinking about format. I
am going to use the lab manual more for students that are asking for examples.
Having done the sound lab first, I think these students needed fewer examples.
Sufficient lead time

Same shape graph for this question. Ten students out of 60 thinking there is not
sufficient lead-time is an appropriate result for a freshman class, I think.
These results are essentially the same as well, although skewed slightly worse. I think
having 51 out of the 55 respondents stating about the same or more than other classes
is a strong response. I do think that my class is challenging to students, particularly
this optics lab. I hope that they feel challenged, but supported. Evidently they feel
challenged. I do think I have a few students that feel very confident in science and
may have indicated that they don’t think they are learning as much in this class. One
student’s responses indicate that he doesn’t feel like he gets much out of my course,
indicating that, “I learn more from Wikipedia.” While this may be his perception, I
feel like I know who this student is and I wonder about the truth of this statement.
Again, this graph has the same essential shape. There are more 4s than last year’s
results, which to me is a positive result. I think it is difficult to engage all students in
any subject, and to have 60% say that they are always or nearly always engaged in class
is positive. I hope to continue to use various strategies to help engage students in
this class and reach the 9% that this think the class is not engaging at all.
Again, this graph has the same essential shape, with more 3s (agree) than last year’s
results. About 84% agree or strongly agree that this class meets their needs as a
learner. In the responses that are 1s or 2s, few of the comments really provide ways
in which I can improve this for students. Some students want questions to be
answered more directly, which is something I don’t feel I need to change. I answer
questions most often by guiding students to the answer or providing resources to find
the answer. One student asked to use more warm-ups and worksheets to improve his
or her understanding. I think that is a strategy that I can use more frequently.
These results are the biggest difference from last year. While the overall response is
still positive, it is not as positive as last year. This puzzles me to some degree because
I don’t think I’ve changed my practice much since last year. I haven’t tried to be less
helpful. One possibility for this result is that students took this survey this year
directly after a unit test that they found challenging. I think that timing did influence
some of the responses. I had a few students ask me questions right before the test
that I could tell they were asking because they had advance information from other
classes about test questions and I told them I would not answer those questions. This
was NOT a popular response. However, I do not feel that providing answers to
questions like that before a test is appropriate or fair to all students.