Lab class structure useless, burdensome

Opinions Columnist | Public relations senior

Lab classes need closer evaluation. Although they are meant to provide the student with hands-on experience, some of them are thrown together in such a way that it actually becomes a hindrance. Some lab classes are necessary but are not being taught in a way that both benefits the student and compliments the lecture portion of the class.

For starters, the lab instructor is usually young and inexperienced. In many cases, they are graduate students who also have school work and other priorities to attend to. As a direct result of prioritizing and time management, the labs usually seem hastily planned without much direction. Sometimes they are unsure of a definite lesson plan and may wander aimlessly in subject matter.

Unlike lecture classes, labs do not often have their own syllabus. They may administer random tests and assign random work, nearly surprise-attacking students. Labs should provide students with hands-on experience but usually have nothing to do with the lecture. Non-major labs should have more interactive, real-world examples and stray from the overly technical details. The information discussed in the lecture portion is generally broad enough for students of any major to comprehend. If it is only half of a two-part course, the two halves should coincide perfectly.

Some lab instructors are a bit harsher in terms of their grading criteria. My non-major Biological Anthropology lab instructor expects the students to know the human skeleton in its entirety without misspelling any words. The short time frame in which this information must be memorized puts even more pressure on non-major students.

Petty grading habits also cause problems for students. Habits like enforcing the use of a preferred, specific writing utensil have already kept me from receiving a perfect score on one of my very first lab assignments. As long as the answer is correct, legible and not written in crayon, the writing utensil should not matter.

Lecture and lab instructors usually do not frequently come into contact with each other, which accounts for the fact that the respective classes may not coincide. When the material discussed in both classes does not sync up, it essentially becomes two different classes. If they are seemingly two different classes, there is no valid point of forcing students to take them as a joint class. Joint classes give students the impression that the two portions are actually related in some obvious way.

Lab classes should not be eliminated altogether but should have better instructors and obvious relevancy to the lecture portion. They should be taught by experienced, well-rounded professors, just as the lecture classes are. The lab material should also be similar to the lecture material and should not be over-specific in non-major sections. Maybe then lab classes will not seem like that packaged cable deal with all the channels nobody wants.