lab grades

mclaugh at AUGSBURG.EDU mclaugh at AUGSBURG.EDU
Sun Oct 26 13:09:22 EST 1997

>Most classes that I teach have laboratory components.  In general, students
>spend approximately equal amounts of clock time per week in both (i.e. 3
>hrs classroom + 3 hrs laboratory).  In my general biochemistry class,
>approximately 70% of "total points earned" are from lecture quizzes and
>examinations, while the remaining 30% are based on lab quizzes and reports.
>Although I feel strongly that the laboratories are a very important
>component of the course, it seems to me that my grading policies don't
>reflect that commitment; I sometimes suspect that as a consequence of this
>grading bias students may view labs as being of secondary importance.

This has bothered me for years:  biology is not an abstract subject; real
experiences (of many kinds) should be the center of any bio course -- but
this is easy to say. Some institutions have found that eliminating labs
saves lots of money. Many of us think this is either immoral or
pedagogically nuts (or both). I have tried to weight labs to be worth about
as much as the "lecture" portion of my courses, although often it's more
like 40:60 rather than 50:50. I did give the lab greater value than the
lecture in a plant pysiology course once. I had a positive reaction from
one student (on the anonymous course evaluation), who was impressed that a
bio course finally paid sufficient attention in grading to the part the
students spent the most time & effort on. We shouldn't expect students to
value lab work if we don't give it much value when we grade.
Esther McLaughlin

Esther G. McLaughlin
Associate Professor
Biology Dept.
Augsburg College
2211 Riverside Ave.
Minneapolis MN 55454 USA
612/330-1074 // FAX:612/330-1649

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