Foreign languages labs restructured, promote interaction

Foreign language labs at Sam Houston State University were restructured for a more beneficial student experience, one professor said.

Students at Sam Houston State University taking foreign language courses were greeted by a completely redesigned language lab at the start of the semester due to a refurbished curriculum.

Spanish professor Caleb Baker explained why the labs changed to a more interactive setting instead of the traditional study-hall setup.

“There were some changes that needed to be made according to the rules as far as some of the governing bodies inside the university,” Baker said. “Administration and everyone thought it would be more beneficial for the students if the instructors who taught the lectures also taught the hands-on labs as well. So we all got together and wrote a new syllabus and a new curriculum.”

Now, instead of students spending 50 minutes strictly completing their online homework, they are interacting with a small group of peers along with an instructor who has either taught the course in the past or is currently teaching the course.

“The people teaching the lectures are now actually teaching the labs,” Baker said. “[As opposed to] having a lab instructor that, if they have no Spanish background at all, can’t help you with anything, and even if they did, they may not be familiar with the techniques that you’re learning in lab.”

The labs have been constructed to be smaller than the lectures, presenting students with a more intimate setting to ask questions and practice their language one-on-one.

“There’s 25 students in [lecture] and 15 students in the lab, maximum,” Baker said. “Labs should be a place where you [feel] free to say ‘I’m just not getting that in lecture, can we go over that?’ Now you’re going to have somebody in there that can give you a full explanation on why you’re going to do this, and that’s the idea behind it. I think it’s going to be extremely beneficial.”

Some students, however, are hesitant to the changes. Freshman criminal justice major James Brooks is still adjusting to the new curriculum.

“I like the way labs were traditionally,” Brooks said. “I like how it was just an easy, in-and-out process. I’ve only been to one of the new lab classes, but I’m sure it will get better. I guess it is just something you have to get used to.”

Baker said the new curriculum allows students to get the most out of the time and money put into the class. 

“It was never thought of as necessity but the more things progressed, we thought, the hour is being paid for, it was time to put an instructor in there and actually do some instructing,” Baker said.

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