March, 2001

PHY110Y/PHY138Y Laboratory Evaluation

Prepared by David Harrison

Ruxandra and I have recently surveyed students in our PHY110Y/PHY138Y Laboratory about their opinions regarding the lab. This document summarises the results.

466 students participated, which is a bit over one-half of the students enrolled in the laboratory. We threw out the results from the three students who were incapable of identifying which Physics course they were taking.

Question Mean ± Standard Deviation
Everything considered, give an overall rating of the lab by choosing one of the following:
1 Excellent 2 Good 3 Fair 4 Poor 5 Very bad

Comment: below we compare this result to a survey done three years ago.

2.73 ± 0.86
Please compare the Physics lab with other labs you are taking:
1 Much better 2 Better 3 The same 4 Worse 5 Much worse

Comment: this result is disappointing

3.0 ± 1.1
Are you learning enough from the lab?
1 Yes a lot 2 Yes, fairly much 3 A little 4 No, not at all
2.52 ± 0.75
Do you think the free choice of experiments in the second term is a better educational program than the lock-step that you had in the first term?
1 Yes, much better 2 Yes, better 3 They are the same 4 No, it is worse
1.82 ± 0.83
Does the lab demand too much time from you?
1 A little time 2 Reasonable 3 A bit heavy 4 Too much time

Comment: perfect!

2.39 ± 0.72
Do you get adequate and prompt feedback on the quality of your work?
1 Yes always 2 For most of the labs 3 Sometimes 4 Never
2.21 ± 0.99
Do the marks you have received reflect the quality of your work in the lab? In your opinion the marks you have been given are:
1 Too high 2 A bit high 3 Reasonable 4 A bit low 5 Unfairly low

Comment: perfect!

3.41 ± 0.70
Please rate your demonstrator in terms of his/her teaching ability and help provided:
1 Excellent 2 Very good 3 Good 4 Fair 5 Poor
2.5 ± 1.2

In the Spring of 1998, a similar evaluation of the labs was performed. We shall compare the responses to the first question above, the overall rating, for this year's students with those of two years ago.

Percentage of Students Whose Overall Rating of the Laboratory Was "Excellent", "Good", or "Fair"
Physics Course This Year Spring 1998
PHY110Y 77% 55%
PHY138Y 84% 74%

In addition to the multiple choice questions summarised above, we asked the students two related questions:

Virtually every experiment in the laboratory appeared as answers to both questions. We shall summarise the Core experiments first, which many more students have done, and then the Non-Core ones which are done by fewer students.

For the Core experiments, we only report on ones that have 10 or more "votes" as either the best or the worst experiment.

Core Experiments
Experiment Number Saying it Was the Best Number Saying it Was the Worst
Free Fall 94 29
DC Circuits I 46 49
Lens Optics 26 38
Boyle's Law 31 43
Thermal Expansion 41 22
Spectra 34 44
Absolute Zero 24 25
Heat Capacity 17 25
Speed of Sound in a Solid 11 18
Standing Waves 2 35
Velocity of Sound in a Pure Gas 9 15
The Hoop (true!) 14 NA

The only Core experiment that clearly needs attention is Standing Waves.

For the Non-Core experiments, we only include ones that have 5 or more votes as best or worst.

Non-Core Experiments
Experiment Number Saying it Was the Best Number Saying it Was the Worst
Vapor Pressure 6 6
Air Track 5 14
Millikan Oil Drop 6 2
Surface Tension 11 8
e/m of Electron 5 3
Physics of Music 5 2

Except possibly the Air Track, it doesn't appear if any of these are in dire need of improvement.

The fact that virtually every experiment in the laboratory was named as the best by at least a few students argues in favor of the broad range of experiments that we offer.