Bringing Closure To The Lab

Depending on what your discipline is, you may or may not be required to provide some sort of closure to the day's lab. For many laboratories the students are on their own from the moment you are done with your opening talk; they go at their own pace, leave when they want, and may only come to you if they run into problems. In other labs, it is encouraged to collect eveyone together and recap on what students have done that day. If you are unsure what is expected of you, as the lab manager (preferably before the course gets started). Even if you are not required to, if time permits, it is actually a good idea to talk to you class as a whole before they leave. It give you an opportunity to address things that have come up unexpectedly during class (and saves you the time of having to email your entire class later).

Gathering Students Together

Remember that it takes time to get the whole group collected after eveyone has been working independently. Start early with verbal reminders: "In 30 minutes you should be finished and cleaned up so that we can talk about the lab" And remind them at 15 min, 10 min, 5 min that they should be cleaning up soon. You'll have to set your own policy about those who are not cleaned up by the time you want to have discussion. Do you let them continue to clean up and their own expense of missing discussion? Or do you have them sit down and participate, but stay after class to finish cleaning? Whatever you decide, make it a strict policy and stick to it. Either way, if you tell the class you are going to start the discussion at 3:00, make sure you start at 3 for the benefit of students that were ready on time.

Providing a Recap

Students frequently express, in couse evaluations, that the labs aren't tied in with the lectures very well. Unfortunately, it's a problem that's not easily solved. The professor/lecturer usually does not know what is taking place in the lab, and the lab manager doesn't attend the lectures. While dealing with this issue isn't really your job as a TA, it's something you can do to go the extra mile for your students. You are the only course instructor that is required to attend everything, so you have the best understanding of what the students are being exposed to. As you bring the lab to a close focus on the points that make the lab relevant to the students in light of what they're learning in lecture. Refer to specific lecture dates and slides if you can. Take every opportunity to show them that there are common concepts being taught.

This being said, its quite clear that it becomes very important to Go to Lecture!! And try not to just sit in the back of the lecture hall grading papers. As you listen to the lecture, find the specific points/concepts that are exemplified by the lab. Make note of this so that you can bring it up with your students later.

Dicussion & Discussion Questions

For some labs there are required or optional discussion questions provided in the lab manual. Most of the time you will not have enough time to have a thorough discussion. (Although, if you do, you might want to check out some of the strategies in the Running a weekly discussion section module.) If possible, cover the questions that have direct connections to the lecture material first.

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