Laboratory Grades

Ross Koning koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Mon Oct 27 12:05:55 EST 1997

At 2:15 PM -0500 10/25/97, Terry R. Conley wrote:
>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.


I am with you 100%!  In my opinion what I say in a lecture
is not worth too much in terms of student learning.  What
is in the book is worth almost nothing in terms of student
learning.  What is of value is what the student DOES for
her/himself in the learning process IMHO.

Unless the student takes extensive lecture notes and reviews,
outlines, corrects them, they are almost worthless.  Similarly
unless the student reads, outlines, re-reads, works with its
questions, etc. in the book, the text is almost worthless.
I have know few students willing to take on that kind of work.

Moreover, lecture- and book-based learning do not practice
science.  The knowledge that can be gained in these two
modes of learning is faith-based...more religion than
science.  Because I like to focus upon science more than
the knowledge gained through science, I discount these two
modes of learning.  In my courses, exams and so on are worth
50% or the grade OR LESS!  And my exams are usually designed
to test the student's ability to think and approach science
as a process as well as a body of facts to be learned.  So
the memorization component is less than 50% in my courses.

Please note, though, that "content" or "factoids" ARE important
as a knowledge base upon which to build new knowledge.  So
there is about a 50% content function in my courses.  We cannot
get away entirely without vocabulary as a system of tools to
communicate, so there is SOME memorization learning needed.

The laboratory is where the evidence-based actual science
takes place and to me this is what our discipline is all
about.  The laboratory component of my courses is typically
50% or MORE of the total grade.  I like to make my grading
policy reflect the philosophy of my teaching.  I think the
students see this as honesty and appreciate it.

To place too much emphasis on multiple-choice memorization
questions taken from lectures is, based on comments from
students, a kind of hubris and works against the teaching
of science as an objective rather than subjective approach
to acquisition of knowledge.

Students are VERY COMFORTABLE with memorization of lecture
factoids, and my students are at first VERY UPSET about
having to think in my classes (vis a vis just absorbing
factoids).  Later, however, as they learn to think, many
begin to appreciate the power they develop to answer
questions (at least hypothetically) through logic rather
than by recall.  They become more positively disposed toward
discussing questions they have never encountered before.  By
the end of my courses, the students who have developed science
skills become very excited about independent research.  That's
when I can smile.


Ross Koning                 | koning at
Biology Department          |
Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479

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