Ploughing through more lab reports today, I find myself going from frustration to anger to bafflement. Why do students so consistently omit units when they draw their graphs? I just don’t get it. No matter how often I say it to them, they still do it. There has to be some deeper significance to this. Perhaps it reflects an inability to focus, a lack of attention to detail. Maybe it’s a consequence of the times we live in, times when we all have shorter attention spans and where distractions are many. Or, maybe it’s that they are so consumed with the mechanics of whatever plotting package they are using that they forget about the content. (One thing I have noticed is that when plotting graphs in Excel, students tend to lose sight of cause and effect and often plot the independent variable on the vertical axis! In other words, they’re generating the graph without really thinking about what it means.)
Actually, I think the lack of attention to detail in students’ work and a real lack of precision in their use of language are two of the biggest challenges we face in education. It’s not obvious how to deal with this because it’s a social and cultural one as much as an educational one.
Back to those reports…………….