Lab Standard Operating Procedures
Grading. Each week, students will do a prelab assignment and write a lab report. Each prelab will be
worth 6 points and each lab report will be worth 14 points (for a total of 20 points for each lab session).
The grading criteria for lab reports are attached and will be discussed at the first TA meeting. The grading
criteria for the prelabs will vary slightly from week to week and will be discussed in the weekly TA meeting.
Students/Lab Station. For most courses: Students should work in pairs. If there is an odd number of students, you may assign one group of three. Do not let students work alone or in groups of four.
For P3 in Fall 2003: Students should work in groups of three. If the number of students is not divisible by three, you can assign one or two groups of two. Do not let students work alone or in groups of four.
Temporary Lab Section Changes. Students are allowed to make a maximum of 2 temporary lab section
changes during the term using an electronic form. The form is available from or from the course web
page. They can make the changes for any reason. Before each lab session, you should get the current
lab lists from the course web page. The current lists will provide you with a list of your regularly assigned
students, a list of any students that have temporarily added into that section and a list of any regular
students that have transferred temporarily into another lab section. Any student not showing up on the
current lab list should not be allowed to remain in the lab session. The program automatically cuts off the
temporary changes when the lab section is full. If all of the sections that the student can attend are full,
then the student must do the lab on his/her own time.
Permanent Lab Section Changes. Students may make permanent lab section changes during the first two
weeks of classes using the same web page. After that time, the student must see Jan Largent (room 200A) to
make a permanent lab section change.
Lab Makeup Procedure. If a student misses his/her regularly assigned lab section on a given week and
cannot temporarily change into another section, then the lab work must be made up on their own time. The
student should contact his/her regular lab TA and make an appointment to make up the lab. One setup of each
lab is left up in the lab room for one week following the last lab session in which the specific lab was run.
At the end of that time period, the spare setup is taken down. The only reason a lab will be put back up is
if a student was sick for the entire make-up period and physically could not make it to the lab. In such a
case, documentation from Dick's house or a doctor will be necessary.
Lab Checkout Procedure. Each student is required to check out of the lab session with you. Hanging on
the back of the door to the lab, you will find a clipboard with a lab checkout sheet that contains a list of
the equipment that should be at each lab station. Check the equipment found at the student's station against
the list. If any equipment is missing, ask them to account for it and, if possible, to return it to the lab
station. If they cannot account for the equipment, note their names and the missing equipment on the
appropriate section of the checkout sheet. If extra equipment is found at the lab station, ask them to return
it to where they found it. When you are satisfied that the lab station is in order, check off the appropriate
lab station on the checkout sheet and initial each student's lab notebook at the end of the section containing
their raw data. The primary reason for this procedure is to reduce theft. Before this procedure was
instituted, the average loss per term was approximately $300.00.
Lab Times. Labs can run on any weekday. Afternoon sessions run from 1:45 - 4:45 pm and evening
sessions run from 7:00 - 10:00 pm. If the lab is due at the end of the lab period, the lab period is
extended to four hours (1:45-4:45 or 7:00-11:00). The actual days used for a given course and term is an
Lab Report Due Dates. The course instructor sets the due date for the lab. Many make the lab
due 48 hours after the lab. Others make the lab due at the end of the lab period. For P3 in Fall 2003,
students write the reports at home. Reports are due in 48 hrs. Lab sessions are three hours long.
Lab Report Turn-in Location. If the lab report is due sometime after the lab session, the
students will turn them in to marked slots under the graduate student mailboxes in the hall opposite room
102. The wooden front to the base on which your mailboxes sit is hinged and folds down for lab book
retrieval. It is secured with a padlock. A sub-master key will open the padlock. If you have not been
issued a sub-master, see Tom Kenyon. [NOTE: Lab reports are always turned in to the student's regular TA
even if the student temporarily changes into another lab session with another TA.]
Grading and Returning Lab Reports. The exact procedure depends on the number of lab books the
instructor requires. If only one lab book is required, then labs reports must be graded and returned a
minimum of 2 days before their next lab session. Return the lab notebooks to the students using the course
student mailboxes. Course student mailboxes are located by the front door to Wilder. If two lab books are
required, then the reports must be graded by the next lab session and can be returned then.
Conduct the assigned lab sections. During the lab sessions, If necessary, give a short prelab talk.
(see below) Circulate around the room regularly. (Don't spend too much time with one group). Actively monitor
the progress of students as they do the lab. Each time you visit a group, look at the student data to make
sure it looks reasonable. Engage each of your students in conversation about the lab they are doing. Do not
allow one student in a group to monopolize the conversation. Take attendance. Check the attendance against the
list of current students. Do not allow unauthorized student to attend the lab. Keep a written record of
attendance for the entire course. Follow the checkout procedure with each lab group before they leave lab.
Prepare for the lab. Do the entire lab before conducting your lab section. Take all the data the
students will take and do all the analysis they will do. As you do the lab, identify likely conceptual
difficulties students might have and anticipate potential equipment problems. Attend scheduled lab meetings.
Regular, weekly, two-hour long lab meetings will be scheduled starting the week of 9/22/03. Read the lab
handout and do the Prelab before lab meeting. Download the list of current students before each lab. A link
to the lists is available from the lab home page: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~physics/labs/ If you want, you
may prepare a short (<15 min) prelab talk about relevant equipment/computer issues and/or grading. Do not
lecture on the relevant physics for the lab at hand! It is the student's responsibility to prepare for lab.
Conduct one hour of office hours. Schedule these between when your lab sessions run and when the lab
reports are due. Meeting with students outside your normal office hours is optional. You may wish to set
these up before the term starts or talk to your students to see what times work best for them and you. In any
case, please let Jan Largent know what your office hours will be as soon as you decide so he can post them to
the course web site.
Make sure the lab is in the same condition at the end of a lab session as it was when you got there.
Ideally, your students will return all equipment to its original place and take care of all trash. However, if
your students don't return the lab to its original state, you are responsible for cleaning up. You are also
responsible for making sure that each station has the equipment described on the checklist before you leave.
Keep a written grade record; and, if asked, supply the instructor of the course with a lab average for
each student at the end of the term.
Supervise the students when they are making up a lab on their own time. This amounts to meeting with
them to show them how to use the equipment before they begin the lab, discuss any safety considerations and
meeting with them afterwards to check the lab area.
Before the first lab session, prepare and Xerox an information sheet for your students. Include the
following info: your name, the location of your office, your office hours, lab preparation expectations, lab
report format, grading system (note the grading scale), and any special things you will be looking for when you
grade the lab report
During the first lab session, go over other important information, including:
- the late lab policy; stress:
The late lab policy applies to unexcused lateness; if a student's lab report is going to be late,
he/she should, if at all possible, see you prior to its being late to get it excused;
Acceptable excuses are such things as sickness, death or serious illness in the family, absence due
to participation in a interscholastic sports event, etc.;
- the lab make-up policy; stress:
They have one week after the last lab session in which to do the actual lab work; only documented
illness throughout the entire two week period will allow them to make up the lab after the two week
It is their responsibility to make the arrangements with you to make up the work;
the temporary and permanent lab change policy; note the maximum number of lab changes possible per term; stress the following:
They must use the course web page lab change form to make the temporary changes; if they just show
up, they will be asked to leave even if there is room in the lab for them;
Strongly encourage them not to change lab sections unless it is absolutely necessary; permission to
make extra lab changes is very difficult to get;
Lab reports should always be passed into the student's regular TA;
Demonstrate how to call up and use course web page lab change form; demonstrate what information is
available on the web site;
the lab checkout procedure; stress the following:
They must check out through you; this also applies to labs made up on their own time;
They are expected to leave the lab station in the same condition in which they found it;
lab reports should always be passed into the student's regular TA;
Demonstrate how to call up and use course web page lab change form; demonstrate what information is
available on the web site;
- lab notebook requirement - number of notebooks and kind
- lab notebook turn in location
- lab notebook return location
Other TA duties: The above TA responsibilities are not all inclusive. They deal only with your
responsibilities to the labs. The instructor may require other work such as correcting tests, tutoring, etc.
Jan Largent's contact info: Jan's working hours are from 6:30 am - 3:30 pm. Office: 200A Wilder.
Please feel free to contact him about any questions you may have regarding the labs.
David Abbott's contact info: David's working hours are 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. Office: 247 Wilder. Please
feel free to contact him about any questions you have regarding the labs.
All safety requirements outlined in lab write-ups or discussed in pre-lab briefings are mandatory. There
are no exceptions.
There is a first aid kit in each lab mounted on the wall next to the sink. Please let Jan know if you use
anything from those kits so he can make sure it is replaced.
There is a large red emergency button in each lab located next to the door. If there is an emergency
involving electricity, push that button. It shuts off all of the electricity to that room except for some
There is a phone in each lab usually located near the door. Emergency numbers are on the wall next to the
Jan Largent is an EMT-Intermediate and carries a full emergency kit and oxygen in his truck. If a medical
or trauma emergency occurs during his working hours, 6:30 am - 3:30 pm, please have someone contact him
immediately. If the problem appears to be life threatening, call 911 first (and then contact Jan).
Inform Jan or David as soon as possible after any major safety incident in the lab. This includes any incident involving
EMT's or public safety officials or use of the emergency shutoff.
Web resources: All lab information (including experiment write-ups, prelabs, and lab class lists) is
available on the course website.
Courses with public web sites: Most introductory physics courses (e.g. P13 and P15 in Fall 2003) have
course web pages that are available without password protection. For these courses, the URL is
standardized to: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~<ABBREV.COURSE.NAME>/COURSE.html where <ABBREV.COURSE.NAME> is
something like "phys3" or "astro2" and COURSE.html would be something like p3.html or a2.html. For
example, the URL for Physics 13 would be: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~phys13/p13.html NOTE: the web server
is a UNIX mainframe and so the names are case sensitive.
Courses on Blackboard: Some introductory physics courses (e.g. P3 in Fall 2003) use course web sites
managed with Blackboard. To access the Blackboard site, you need your DND username and password and
TA-level access to the course materials. To access a Blackboard website, go to
http://blackboard.dartmouth.edu Use your DND username and password to log on. If the course instructor
uses Blackboard and you cannot access the Blackboard site, contact the course instructor immediately!
What to do with broken equipment. If any un-repairable, disposable equipment (i.e. glassware, spectrum
tubes, etc.) is broken, discard* it and note it on the lab checkout sheet. If repairable equipment is broken,
leave it in a central location in the lab with a note specifying what is wrong and note it on the lab checkout
sheet. Don't just leave a note saying "broken".
A set of tools is located in the bottom right hand drawer of the green paper cabinet in each lab room. Feel
free to use these tools to make any minor repairs that you are sure you know how to do. If, however, you are
not sure how to fix something or if it is a major repair, do not attempt to fix it.
* Use common sense when dealing with broken glass. Do not put broken glass directly
into the trash cans. Place the glass shards in a safe container and notify Jan, David or Larry Ackerman for
Extra equipment available. The lab equipment will be checked daily for proper operation. There will be
extra equipment stacked somewhere in the lab room. If something breaks or extra supplies are needed, look
around. It will be somewhere in the room.
Ask students questions about what they are doing. The best way to find out what students are thinking
is to ask questions and to listen carefully to the responses. You can often detect (and correct)
misunderstandings that students have.
Expect the students to know ten times less than you think they should know. Many students
misinterpret ideas presented in lecture. Listen carefully to what students say and ask frequent
questions. This caveat also applies to basic lab tasks as constructing a good data table or graph.
Students do not receive any instruction on basic lab skills in the lecture.
Teach students to be intellectually honest. Do not let them make claims in their conclusions that are
not supported by their data. While it is important to emphasize accuracy in data taking, teaching the
thought processes used in good science is more important.
Enforce attendance policies strictly and uniformly. It is to your advantage to be very strict when it
comes to excuses for temporary lab changes, late labs and lab make-ups. The more you allow, the more
time you will have to spend in the lab and chasing the students around. You can always lighten up
later in the term. To try to be strict after being lax is next to impossible. NOTE: lab changes must
be made through me. If a student asks you if it is OK to change into your lab section, refer them to
Put important information on the chalkboard. If you give a prelab talk, write the outline of your
pre-lab discussion on the board. It will help you pace your talk, prevent you from forgetting to
mention some important point and give late students an idea of what was discussed in the pre-lab talk.
Pre-lab talks should last no more than twenty minutes (except perhaps for the first one). Unless
otherwise informed, assume that the subject matter has been covered in class.