I told myself I couldn't post to my blog until I finished grading the lab reports for one of my sections. Mission accomplished!
I must say I'm pleased overall with their progress. I gave them lots of feedback on their first lab reports and sent them a brief email outlining common errors (eg. lack of numbers/titles on figures and tables) and basic expectations (eg. clearly state the hypotheses). I think these things really helped because many of my students showed considerable improvement in those areas.
For their first reports I suggested to many students that they read their lab reports aloud to themselves to catch errors and unclear statements. I didn't have to write that on anyone's paper this time. For some of my students for whom English is not their first language, I recommended they ask a friend to proofread it. These suggestions seemed to help tremendously (or perhaps it was divine intervention) because overall the lab reports were much better. Some of my students make consistent grammatical errors (eg. then instead of than), but overall there were fewer. Oddly, one of my students wrote "well" every time they meant "while." I suppose they have never been told before that this is incorrect?
Sometime in the next two weeks I want to create my own teaching evaluations for the students to fill out. I still haven't seen my evaluations from last semester, so obviously the university's system isn't going to help me. I'm not sure exactly what to ask yet, but I haven't really sat down to think about it. Suggestions, anyone?