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Good at lecture bad at lab?

  1. Nov 9, 2009 #1
    i am pretty confused on this. i am currently acing my chemistry test, with minimal effort. The chemistry class also has a lab component to it. I am lucky, that i have a smart partner that i can copy her answers from because i am COMPLETELY LOST in the labs. Its like i have ZERO idea whatsoever as to what to do. I feel bad also, because my partner always yells at me for being useless, and i get nervous the lab instructor will hear that and realize im not doing anything so he will fail me. anyways, my current lab partner is refusing to work with me next semester for the next level chem class. i really want to be good at labs, so i don't have to depend on others to do my work. i mean i have a 96 on lectures now, and most of my class is FAILING lectures. it doesn't make sense. any thoughts on this?i want to go to dental school, so i need a lot of chemistry. im also sure i will have a lot of lab work in dental school. I don't want to fear my future classes./ my lab partner is a genius, who got exempt from all intro classes due to extremely high sat scores. yet i am doing better than her in the chemistry lecture, and she actually studies and does her homework. although she knows whats up in the labs./

    also this is unrelated, but i was wondering does anybody find trig easier than algebras?
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2009 #2


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    What is it about the labs that you find difficult...is it the techniques, or the concepts?
  4. Nov 10, 2009 #3
    well, here's how lab days go. i walk in determined to do my part in today's lab. i take the notes on the board. the lab instructor explains the lab. (i dont really absorb his explanations but everyone else seems to) he then says go to work...and im standing there with a stupid look on my face. at first i thought it was because iwasnt reading my procedure, but i started reading it, and my lab partners and everyone else around me is using materials and doing things not on the procedure(like everyone is doing the same thing thats not on the procedures) im just so lost. i hope this class doesnt blow my A. i have a lab report due on friday and i have no idea how to write it. another bad thing is, he gives us like 10 minutes for a quiz and pressures us to get it done, so i wind up with 70s on one of my quizzes, 75 on another, and a 90 on one. so my quiz average isnt great, and i only got a 75 on one because he gave out extra credit to anyone who turned the quiz back into him but idk if ishould just change majors.

    btw happy birthday./
  5. Nov 10, 2009 #4


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    Some people are more "book smart" and do well on written work, but then can be total disasters in a lab setting. Labs require a different set of learning skills and approaches to problem solving than lecture courses do. That's why students need to do both lecture and lab courses to get a science degree, because neither is adequate entirely on its own.

    You are also right that dental school is lab intensive. It's also the one program that requires a test for manual dexterity along with all the written standardized exams for admission. That's because, bluntly, it doesn't matter how smart you are if you're a complete klutz, or can't use that knowledge rapidly and in situation-dependent manners.

    Here are a few suggestions based on what you've shared so far.

    First, stop doing yourself the disservice of copying your lab partner's work. It's no wonder she doesn't want to work with you again if she's doing all the work and you're just copying and getting credit for it. But, more importantly, the goal of the course isn't to get an A by any means possible, the goal is to learn something. You're wasting your time and tuition money if all you're doing is copying off someone else to pass. Instead, it's time to force yourself to do your own work and see how much you can learn on your own...because in labs, part of the learning comes from the process of figuring out how to work through the places where you get stuck, and dealing with the unexpected results.

    Second, you really do need to listen more carefully to the instructor's prep talk. If you're not following what is said then, maybe you're too busy writing everything on the board and forgetting to just LISTEN...this is also a common student mistake...the content on the board isn't going anywhere, you can write it down after you listen. And, if everyone else in the class knows to do things that are not listed in the written procedures in your lab manual, then there is a very good chance that is the information being conveyed during the prep talk.

    Lastly, before it's hopelessly too late to learn anything, go see your instructor for extra help. Or, if your instructor is a TA who doesn't yet have enough teaching experience to help with these more difficult issues of how to guide you toward finding a better approach to learning (that is sometimes the case that a TA can help with specific subject-related questions, but hasn't yet encountered enough students struggling with your type of problem to help you address a general problem of how to approach the course), then see if you can make an appointment with the professor who runs the course and oversees the TAs. That professor will likely have more insight into learning issues to offer better advice to you.

    The one impression I've gotten from your various posts around here is that you really haven't figured out how to learn yet, but because you manage to memorize enough things to get good grades in your lower level classes, and your focus has been on grades, not learning, you're still resisting admitting to yourself that your approach is flawed. I keep saying this to you, not because I'm trying to be mean to you, but because I really want you to "get it." You are still early enough in your education that if you take a moment to swallow your pride and adjust your approach to learning, you really can be successful. Maybe this course is your wake-up call. If you can't accept that your fundamental approach to your coursework is currently flawed, you will very soon hit a wall where it no longer suffices and it's going to be much harder to recover and correct your methods as more time passes.
  6. Nov 10, 2009 #5


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    You might also consider, sportsstar, that if Moonbear's suggestions don't help you, whether such a practical profession as dentistry is what you should aspire at.

    Some, who are naturally gifted theoretically, ARE, and will remain to their dying day, complete idiots when it comes to the lab, also when it comes to a field like chemistry.
    (The other way, however is very rare; you won't be able to do much good in the lab unless you have a good grasp of the theory behind what you are doing).

    It might be a manual dexterity&coordination thing, for example, that hinders you.

    Perhaps a more math-heavy education would suit you better?

    It's not that you can't find individuals who combine both skills, but because it IS possible to thrive mainly as a theorist, as long as you are good enough on those issues..
  7. Nov 11, 2009 #6


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    Chemistry classes having laboratory components are more well designed and you have far better chance to learn and gain practical skills. Be glad (even if frustrated).
    You must keep trying in your lab section. Do not expect your laboratory partner to always be sharper in the lab than you - this might change during the course and he/she may become less effective and may then need YOUR help - so learn to pre-study and learn to plan your lab exercise before the class meeting.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2009
  8. Nov 11, 2009 #7
    Do some undergrad research/volunteer to help a professor/join a related club.
  9. Nov 12, 2009 #8


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  10. Nov 12, 2009 #9
    Sounds like a classic case of knowledge over understanding.

    EDIT: Was going to write a list of things to do, but just read Moonbear's fine post, do that and you'll be fine.
  11. Nov 12, 2009 #10
    i even had trouble with the lab report. luckily i had a friend who finished hers tell me step by step what to do im hopeless. also when i say im good at lecture, i mean im acing it however i think thats just because im a REALLY good test taker. i think im just stupid all around. or might have a learning disability. i have a straight 4.0 average, but i dont ever feel that ive learned anything. for instance in august itook an algebra 2 course, and in september istarted a college algebra and trig course which im still in. in September i forgot all that ihad learned in august lol. we did an algebra review in my trig class, and then had a test on that stuff. then unit 2 was trig, and now we have a test on unit 2. the test is cumulative, and i looked over unit 1, which is the algebra part, and i forgot it all. i went to the tutor to explain it to me, and i couldnt comprehend the old stuff, that i was fine with back in my last class for august, and back in septmeber for unit 1 when i got a b on the test witout studying ****. to moon bear thanks for the suggestion.
  12. May 11, 2010 #11
    i know this is an old thread, but i thought id post a new finding of mine today. since,as you all know i was struggling with math and chemistry, i decided to talk to my psychologist i see.(i see him for family stuff). when i was in 8th grade, i got tested with the WESCHLER childrens intelligence scale.

    the findings were that my verbal skills in the 79th percentile.

    my visual and spatial skills were in the 12th percentile...basically im mentally retarded as far as i can see...

    pretty distressing news.

    ive decided to just do a psychology degree.

    i noticed in my math, and chemistry classes i would memorize my way through the courses. i always did way better on tests than most of my classmates, but felt like i had less of an understanding.
  13. May 11, 2010 #12


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    Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels:

    Knowledge: Recalling memorized information. May involve remembering a wide range of material from specific facts to complete theories, but all that is required is the bringing to mind of the appropriate information. Represents the lowest level of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain.

    Learning objectives at this level: know common terms, know specific facts, know methods and procedures, know basic concepts, know principles.


    The ability to grasp the meaning of material. Translating material from one form to another (words to numbers), interpreting material (explaining or summarizing), estimating future trends (predicting consequences or effects). Goes one step beyond the simple remembering of material, and represent the lowest level of understanding.

    Learning objectives at this level: understand facts and principles, interpret verbal material, interpret charts and graphs, translate verbal material to mathematical formulae, estimate the future consequences implied in data, justify methods and procedures.


    The ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations. Applying rules, methods, concepts, principles, laws, and theories. Learning outcomes in this area require a higher level of understanding than those under comprehension.

    Learning objectives at this level: apply concepts and principles to new situations, apply laws and theories to practical situations, solve mathematical problems, construct graphs and charts, demonstrate the correct usage of a method or procedure.


    The ability to break down material into its component parts. Identifying parts, analysis of relationships between parts, recognition of the organizational principles involved. Learning outcomes here represent a higher intellectual level than comprehension and application because they require an understanding of both the content and the structural form of the material.

    Learning objectives at this level: recognize unstated assumptions, recognizes logical fallacies in reasoning, distinguish between facts and inferences, evaluate the relevancy of data, analyze the organizational structure of a work (art, music, writing).


    (By definition, synthesis cannot be assessed with multiple-choice questions. It appears here to complete Bloom's taxonomy.)

    The ability to put parts together to form a new whole. This may involve the production of a unique communication (theme or speech), a plan of operations (research proposal), or a set of abstract relations (scheme for classifying information). Learning outcomes in this area stress creative behaviors, with major emphasis on the formulation of new patterns or structure.

    Learning objectives at this level: write a well organized paper, give a well organized speech, write a creative short story (or poem or music), propose a plan for an experiment, integrate learning from different areas into a plan for solving a problem, formulate a new scheme for classifying objects (or events, or ideas).


    The ability to judge the value of material (statement, novel, poem, research report) for a given purpose. The judgments are to be based on definite criteria, which may be internal (organization) or external (relevance to the purpose). The student may determine the criteria or be given them. Learning outcomes in this area are highest in the cognitive hierarchy because they contain elements of all the other categories, plus conscious value judgments based on clearly defined criteria.

    Learning objectives at this level: judge the logical consistency of written material, judge the adequacy with which conclusions are supported by data, judge the value of a work (art, music, writing) by the use of internal criteria, judge the value of a work (art, music, writing) by use of external standards of excellence.

    Each level requires a more sophisticated understanding of the subject. It's more than likely that the written test tested the subject to the knowledge and comprehension level, while the labs most likely require knowledge to the application and analysis level.
  14. May 11, 2010 #13
    well that makes sense i guess, but for all my life i have always been one of the ''smart'' kids in class.up unti l6th grade i was in the highest classes(including math)..in 7th grade i started failing all my maths...but in college i regained my composure and still did bettter in maths and chemistrys than any one else. in my gen chem 1 class i got the highest lecture average and its not liek i studied that much...but i did feel like i didnt understand it i just memorized it...however since im basically considered mentally retarded(12th percentile) wouldnt everyone else who barely studied do better than me most likely?9i doubt they had test anziety).

    even in my gen chem 2 class which i managed to drop...i still was able to get a 51 average in lecture(yes failing) without even opening up a book, or paying attention in lectures..i know that's a bad score but its ok, for not doing anything, and ts a hard class. there were people with lower scores...and i doubt they have mentally retarded spatial skills like me.

    idk..life is weird.

    my psychologist said if i played tetris it will help my spatial skills, but i doubt that will work. i mean i could understand if iwas in the 40th percentile but i am in the 12th....

    on an iq test the 12th is an iq of what? 20??? he said its an 80(he guessed) but idoubt its that high when you consider the 50th percentile is right at the 100s.
  15. May 11, 2010 #14


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    80's not a bad guess. Low to mid 80's would probably be more accurate for 12th percentile. IQ follows a normal distribution (a bell curve). Most people are between 90 and 110.

    I'm not so sure how reliable or meaningful those tests are, anyway. I've known a person or two that routinely scored below average on standardized tests (around 40th percentile), yet maintained an A average, but I have a hard time believing you maintain an A average if you were really in the 12th percentile.

    Tetris and other games help spatial skills, including those whack-a-mole games. Some professional athletes have gone through professional programs using video games, arcade games to improve both their spatial skills and reaction times (as opposed to sitting around the house playing video games at random, which might help some).

    Some versions of Tetris work better than others.
    Last edited: May 11, 2010
  16. May 11, 2010 #15
    I'm not good a lab work either. The last time I visited one I set off an ultraviolet catastrophe.
  17. May 11, 2010 #16


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    That's because you are a theoretical chemist.
  18. May 11, 2010 #17
    thanks for the reply.
    when you say you have a hard time believing i maintained an A average in the 12th percentile, are you trying to say you think if i retook the test id score higher? ihope you dont think im lying about getting a's? i mean i know some people lie online to impress people,but if i was one of those people i wouldnt make a thread about my spatial abilities being 10 points away from the mildly retarded borders.

    would an online wack a mole game be good? which versions of tetris are best? and does it make a significant improvement?or just a minor one?
  19. May 11, 2010 #18
    haha with my spatial skills,im not any chemist(although i suspect this was a joke for people who know what a theoretical chemist is..i do not though ha)
  20. May 11, 2010 #19


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    Well, first off, looking at your other post, you're focusing only on the lowest score. Your 79th percentile verbal would be a little more consistent with the grades. But a single test can occasionally spew out some worthless results. A history of similar test scores over time is a better indicator.
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