Does it Matter if Students Have the Same Instructor for Both Lecture and Lab Sections? An Analysis of Introductory Biology Students

Michael Joseph Wise


With the goal of increasing the immediacy of the relationship between tenure-track professors and students, science departments in liberal arts colleges may try to arrange their curriculum so that students have the same professor in both the lecture and the lab section of introductory courses. While this goal seems laudable, empirical data are currently lacking to justify the logistical hurdles and professional sacrifices likely required to match professors to students in both lecture and lab sections of large courses. To address this data gap, I analyzed student evaluations and grades from three years of an introductory biology course that included separate lecture and lab sections. There was no evidence that matching a student’s lecture and lab instructor had any benefit on either the students’ perception of the effectiveness of the labs, or on the students’ performance in their lab or lecture sections. In addition, there was no consistent pattern in students’ perceptions of the relative effectiveness of tenure-track professors, visiting professors, and adjunct instructors. This study suggests that students may even benefit from having different instructors in their lecture and lab, whether they are tenured professors, visiting professors, or part-time adjuncts.


contingent faculty; student performance; student evaluations; laboratory staffing; liberal arts college

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