Grading Lab Reports

Very few lab instructors actually enjoy grading lab reports. But when done well, grading lab reports can promote student learning. The goal is to find a good balance between the efficient use of your grading time and the effectiveness of grading in promoting learning. One way to achieve that balance is by using a grading rubric, an evaluation sheet that contains the criteria for grading and a grading scale.

LabWrite provides a grading rubric that reinforces the instruction students find in the LabWrite PostLab. The rubric is an Excel spreadsheet is modifiable, and calculates students’ lab report grades. Because the rubric is tied directly to the PostLab and to the students’ LabCheck Evaluation Guide, students know exactly what criteria you’ll be using to grade their lab reports, so you don’t have to spend time explaining or justifying the grading scheme. Using this approach greatly reduces the subjectivity in grading lab reports that students so often criticize. It also creates greater uniformity among graders if more than one instructor is grading reports for a lab course. (If more than one instructor is involved with grading reports, make sure to agree on a point system. See below for help in using the Excel rubric.)

The Excel grading rubric is identical to the Evaluation Guide in the LabCheck stage of LabWrite for all types of labs--standard, descriptive, or designed by students. The students' Evaluation Guide contains links that match the criteria on your grading rubric. This means that when you make a low mark on your rubric, the student can click on the link and find out how to improve that criterion on the next report. This reduces the extensive comments you need to write on students’ reports.

How to use the Excel grading rubric:

The Excel sheet has places for you to change the number of points you allocate to each criterion as well as the grading scale. You may also add/modify criteria entries to better match your course (these are modifiable on the Excel sheet), but ensure that students are familiar with your changes before they use LabWrite and write their lab reports. Also, changes should not alter the basic elements used throughout LabWrite, since this will make the site confusing for students. Click here for help with using the grading rubric.

How to fill out the Excel grading rubric:

  • You can fill out the Excel grading rubric electronically and then do one of the following:
    • print it out and hand back to your students along with their lab reports,
    • send it as an attachment by e-mail,
    • post using an electronic learning system such as Blackboard, Web CT, Desire to Learn.

NOTE: Whichever mode you choose for returning the grading rubric, it is very important that you hand back the lab report as well. Students will need to see their lab reports to understand their marks.

How students use your completed Excel grading rubric:

LabWrite is structured so that students may use your completed grade sheet as a guide for referring back to the LabCheck Evaluation Guide, where they can click on specific criteria for instructions on how to improve their next reports.

Suggestions for encouraging students to make use of your feedback:

  • Return graded lab reports before the next lab report is due. If this is not possible, because you assign lab reports frequently, you can fill in and hand back the rubric but not grade the first couple of reports to allow students some time to improve their efforts.
  • Have students write a reflection piece based on the feedback you’ve given them, including a description of how they will improve their next report. They should turn this in with their next report for credit.
  • Have students grade each other’s first lab reports using the grading rubric. Have them turn in their “peer-graded” reports with a reflection piece on what they learned in the process. Grade them on their reflection.
  • Do not assign a grade the first lab report, but have students use the grading rubric to correct mistakes on subsequent reports. Grade the next report based on their improvement from the previous report.




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