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Title: Developing Best Practices for Teaching Scientific Documentation: Toward a Better Understanding of How Lab Notebooks Contribute to Knowledge-building in Engineering Design and Experimentation
Laboratory notebooks perform important roles in the engineering disciplines. They at once record an engineer’s work, serve as an important reference for future reports and/or articles, and perform as a kind of journal that enables questioning presuppositions, considering new approaches, and generating new ideas. Given the importance of notebooks, there is surprisingly little scholarship on how to teach their use. Stanley and Lewandowski (2016) surveyed students in undergraduate laboratory courses and evaluated how their notebooks were being used. They found that “few [students] … thought that their lab classes successfully taught them the benefit of maintaining a lab notebook.” Moreover, the authors’ later survey of the literature and of college faculty led them to conclude that in undergraduate lab courses “little formal attention has been paid to addressing what is considered ‘best practice’ for scientific documentation …[or] how researchers come to learn these practices” (Stanley and Lewandowski, 2018). At XXX University, two courses, Interfacing the Digital Domain with the Analog World (AEP 2640) and Engineering Communications (ENGRC 2640) are taught in conjunction. In AEP 2640, students use a computer to control equipment and acquire measurements in an engineering design and experimentation laboratory. Laboratory activities such as the development of a computer interface for an oscilloscope, a set of motors, and a photodiode culminate in the realization of an automated laser scanning microscope system. In ENGRC 2640, students receive instruction and feedback on their lab notebook entries and, in turn, use those notebooks as a resource for preparing a Progress Report and an Instrument Design Report. The instructors encourage peer review in order to facilitate improvement of students’ skills in the art of notebook use while allowing them to develop these skills and personal style through trial and error during the research. The primary learning objectives are: 1) to enable students to engage in real laboratory research; and 2) to develop proficiency with select genres associated with that research. The educational research objectives are: 1) to study students’ developing proficiency in order to generate best practices for teaching and learning scientific documentation; and 2) to better understand the contribution of scientific documentation to the teaching and learning of authentic research. This study is a work-in-progress. We will present the study design. That design involves, first, developing a self-efficacy scale for both conducting laboratory research and performing those genres associated with that research. Self-efficacy or a “person’s awareness of their ability to accomplish a goal” (Kolar et. al, 2013) has proven to be a powerful predictor of achievement. Our intent is to track learner agency. Second, the design also involves conducting a content analysis of students’ laboratory notebooks and reports. Content analysis is a methodology that encourages inferencing "across distinct domains, from particulars of one kind to particulars of another kind" (Krippendorff,, 2019). Our intent is to learn about students' mastery of the engineering design and experimentation process through analyzing their lab notebooks. We will present the results of a preliminary content analysis of a select sample of those notebooks and genres.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1944653
NSF-PAR ID:
10211170
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access Proceedings
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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