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Research and Teaching: Laboratory Workload Calculation and Its Impact on Science Instruction at the Community College Level

Journal of College Science Teaching—May/June 2015

Despite the large body of evidence that indicates activity-based instruction is more effective than lecture-only instruction, for the purpose of workload calculation, many community colleges assign less value to the time spent in science lab than in lecture. This discrepancy is inconsistent with goals of science excellence set by the National Research Council and teaching guidelines recommended by multiple professional organizations. This study, using input from full-time, two-year college science instructors, provides data regarding the extent of this policy at the community college level and its perceived impact on instruction. The responses indicate that differential loading of lab hours is common and widely variable, with a majority of the respondents’ hours in lab discounted compared with their hours in lecture, in workload calculations. In combination with open-ended comments made by study participants, the results suggest that science instructors do perceive impacts on their ability to create and teach pedagogically current and challenging laboratory activities when their hours in lab are counted for less than in lecture.
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