A 3 Hour Experiment or 3 Hours of Scheduled Lab?

One questions most asked by students about Organic Chemistry lab is, “Will this take long?” Truthfully, I am always tempted to reply, “What does your schedule say?” I suspect that students ask this because they know that a science lab might be significantly shorter than the scheduled time. I take it as a personal challenge to fill the three hours of time each week that I have been allotted. However, even after all my experience teaching, I still struggle with predicting how long a particular laboratory exercise will require. I call it a struggle because I would really like to make the most of lab time without disrespecting students by deliberately going beyond the scheduled time. There are some consideration though: does a three hour lab mean that the average student will be done in three hours or does it mean that the slowest student will be done in three hours? I have to say that, since I started out teaching with smaller class sizes, letting a student stay and extra half-hour to hour to finish an experiment did not really bother me. Now, that labs are full to capacity, accommodating careful students gets to be more problematic. Should I kick them out? Make them come back at another time and finish? I have so far tried to resist making my experiments progressively shorter so that everyone is sure to finish.

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 22, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I am not a careful student, but please don’t kick me out! I’ll do the dishes… AGAIN.

    How about letting students finish at another time (i.e. maybe towards the evening or a Saturday morning?) If it is a bad timing for you, maybe you can get another professor or a TA to come look after the students. Or at least, students like me. =)


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