Facilitating Improvements in Laboratory Report Writing Skills with Less Grading: A Laboratory Report Peer-Review Process †
Incorporating peer-review steps in the laboratory report writing process provides benefits to students, but it also can create additional work for laboratory instructors. The laboratory report writing process described here allows the instructor to grade only one lab report for every two to four students, while giving the students the benefits of peer review and prompt feedback on their laboratory reports. Here we present the application of this process to a sophomore level genetics course and a freshman level cellular biology course, including information regarding class time spent on student preparation activities, instructor preparation, prerequisite student knowledge, suggested learning outcomes, procedure, materials, student instructions, faculty instructions, assessment tools, and sample data. T-tests comparing individual and group grading of the introductory cell biology lab reports yielded average scores that were not significantly different from each other (p = 0.13, n = 23 for individual grading, n = 6 for group grading). T-tests also demonstrated that average laboratory report grades of students using the peer-review process were not significantly different from those of students working alone (p = 0.98, n = 9 for individual grading, n = 6 for pair grading). While the grading process described here does not lead to statistically significant gains (or reductions) in student learning, it allows student learning to be maintained while decreasing instructor workload. This reduction in workload could allow the instructor time to pursue other high-impact practices that have been shown to increase student learning. Finally, we suggest possible modifications to the procedure for application in a variety of settings.
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