Re-Visioning Lab Learning

Friday, February 15, 2013
Room 210 (Hynes Convention Center)
Susan Singer , Carleton College, Northfield, MN
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the revised AP science curricula challenge educators to rethink the way laboratory learning occurs in K-12 science classes; while the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology’s (PCAST) Engage to Excel and Excel report recommends replacing standard laboratories with discovery based laboratories at the undergraduate level. As underscored in the National Research Council’s America’s Lab Report, laboratory learning at its best achieves many goals, including mastery of concepts and skills. But, too often laboratory experiences from K-16 are simply cookbook exercises with a right answer to be found at the end. The AP Laboratory Vision Committee, the Framework for K-12 Science Education that is foundational to the NGSS, and America’s Lab Report all point to the evidence that lab learning is most effective when it is integrated into the overall flow of instruction. In far too many cases, labs are isolated activities that do not fully engage students in the process of science. Over time terms including “inquiry-based” and “investigative” labs have taken on a range of meanings. The Framework provides clarity with explicit science practices that acknowledge that conceptual understanding and skills are inextricably interwoven. Indeed, the NGSS fully integrate concepts and practices in all of the performance objectives for students. Implementation of the new AP investigative laboratories and the NGSS offer an opportunity to re-vision laboratory learning for K-12 students and will catalyze change in the undergraduate curriculum. Undergraduate laboratory teaching must follow suite to prepare future teachers to implement effective laboratory learning and to provide all students with laboratory learning experiences that will build on the strengths of the re-visioned laboratories taking shape in K-12. The press for change in undergraduate science teaching occurring synchronously with shifts in K-12, further leverages the opportunity for truly effective K-16 laboratory learning.