Consumer Chemistry

“The customer is always right.” This must be a quote from a multi-billionaire retailer like Marshall Field. Not exactly words to live by for a college laboratory instructor, but something to contemplate. In college courses students ultimately play the role of consumer/customer.  I am always amazed that college students, experienced education consumers for over a dozen years, seem to have little in the way of expectations. In all but the most progessive institutions, the laboratory instructor has the responsibility to design the course and set the all-important evaluation guidelines. In fact, empowering students to take an active and interested role in their own education presents a significant challenge to instructors. This situation seems a far cry from instructors catering to consumers concerned about “getting their money’s worth” from their educational investment. Maybe there are other factors at work here. Sometimes the results (i.e. grades) loom so large that the process seems almost frivolous. Other times it is difficult for the student (and the instructor) to make the connection between what happens in lab and the overall goal of education – to obtain meaningful and lucrative employment. Sometimes, I have to admit, I like calling the shots. On the other hand, if this was my money that I was paying for my education, I would be more demanding.

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