Experiences with lab-centric instruction

Nathaniel Titterton, Colleen M. Lewis, Michael J. Clancy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lab-centric instruction emphasizes supervised, hands-on activities by substituting lab for lecture time. It combines a multitude of pedagogical techniques into the format of an extended, structured closed lab. We discuss the range of benefits for students, including increased staff interaction, frequent and varied self-assessments, integrated collaborative activities, and a systematic sequence of activities that gradually increases in difficulty. Instructors also benefit from a deeper window into student progress and understanding. We follow with discussion of our experiences in courses at U.C. Berkeley, and using data from some of these investigate the effects of lab-centric instruction on student learning, procrastination, and course pacing. We observe that the lab-centric format helped students on exams but hurt them on extended programming assignments, counter to our hypothesis. Additionally, we see no difference in self-ratings of procrastination and limited differences in ratings of course pace. We do find evidence that the students who choose to attend lab-centric courses are different in several important ways from students who choose to attend the same course in a non-lab-centric format.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-102
Number of pages24
JournalComputer Science Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Blended learning environments
  • Closed lab
  • Collaborative learning
  • Computer programming
  • CS1
  • CS2
  • Embedded assessment
  • Pedagogy
  • Procrastination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Education


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