Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

US High School Science Lab Experiences Often Poor, But Research Points Way To Improvements

Date:
August 9, 2005
Source:
The National Academies
Summary:
The quality of science laboratory experiences is poor for most US high school students, but educators can improve these experiences by following four key principles of effective instruction, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council.

WASHINGTON -- The quality of science laboratory experiencesis poor for most U.S. high school students, but educators can improvethese experiences by following four key principles of effectiveinstruction, says a new report from the National Academies' NationalResearch Council. The shift would make lab activities more likely tohelp students reach important goals of science education, includingcultivating an interest in science, developing scientific reasoningskills, and mastering science subjects.

Related Articles


The committee that wrotethe report conducted a comprehensive review of research on how U.S.high school science labs affect science learning, and on the whole,available knowledge is inadequate, it said. Research gaps, including alack of consensus on how to define these labs or their purpose, make itdifficult to reach conclusions on the best approaches to laboratoryteaching and learning. However, sufficient evidence shows that thenation's high school science labs generally do not follow fourestablished principles for effective science instruction:

+ Design science lab experiences with clear learning outcomes in mind
+ Thoughtfully sequence lab experiences into science instruction
+ Integrate learning science content and learning about the processes of science
+ Incorporate ongoing student reflection and discussion


"Althoughmore rigorous research on the role and value of high school sciencelaboratory experiences is needed, existing research is useful forcurriculum designers, teachers, and other education leaders to makeimprovements now in how science teaching and lab experiences arestructured to support learning," said committee chair Susan Singer,professor of biology, Carleton College, Northfield, Minn. "New researchefforts should include the systematic collection and dissemination ofthe best classroom practices."

On average, U.S. high schoolstudents enrolled in science classes spend about one period each weekon lab work, such as comparing different cell types under a microscopeor adding a solution of known acidity to a solution of unknownalkalinity. A "laboratory" may refer to a room where students usespecial equipment to carry out well-defined procedures, or solely todifferent types of science activities. The committee used the term"laboratory experiences" to describe those that take place in anyrelevant setting and that provide students with opportunities tointeract directly with the material world or with data drawn from it --using the tools, data-collection techniques, models, and theories ofscience.

Students should participate in a range of lab activitiesto verify known scientific concepts, pose research questions, conceivetheir own investigations, and create models of natural phenomena, thereport says. This kind of broad exposure could enhance theirunderstanding of the relationships between empirical research andscientific theories and concepts.

Historically, lab experienceshave been disconnected from the flow of science lessons in U.S.classrooms, and this remains typical, the report says. Such labexperiences help develop some aspects of scientific reasoning and playa role in boosting students' interest in science, but they have littleeffect on helping them master subjects. These exercises are oftennarrow in scope and more focused on mechanical procedures than onmeaning.

In recent years, researchers have begun to design andstudy "integrated instructional units" that connect the lab with othertypes of science learning. In this approach, students help frameresearch questions, design and execute experiments, and constructscientific arguments and explanations -- key elements of the scientificprocess. Few large-scale studies have been conducted on these units,the report says, but limited evidence shows promising gains for diversegroups of students in understanding the subject matter, developingscientific reasoning skills, and boosting interest in science. Oneexample engages students in performing a series of chemical reactionsand weaves those lessons with other forms of chemistry instruction.Preliminary results from an ongoing five-year study in the MontgomeryCounty, Md., school district were so positive that this instructionalunit was scaled up from five middle schools to more than 30.

Severalfactors play a role in the prevalence of typical, old-style lab work,the report says. Teachers are rarely trained to effectively lead labexperiences that follow the four design principles. The way schedules,space, and other resources are organized in most high schools also mayimpede teachers' and administrators' learning about how to carry outeffective science instruction. Moreover, if state science standards areinterpreted as encouraging the teaching of certain science topics atvarious grade levels, teachers may feel too pressed for time to teachlabs well.

In an increasingly complex, high-tech society, U.S.high school graduates need a basic understanding of science andtechnology to lead productive lives, the report says. To improve theirunderstanding, most science laboratory experiences must be reformed.

Thestudy was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The NationalResearch Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academyof Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private,nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice undera congressional charter. A committee roster follows.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The National Academies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The National Academies. "US High School Science Lab Experiences Often Poor, But Research Points Way To Improvements." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050809065445.htm>.
The National Academies. (2005, August 9). US High School Science Lab Experiences Often Poor, But Research Points Way To Improvements. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050809065445.htm
The National Academies. "US High School Science Lab Experiences Often Poor, But Research Points Way To Improvements." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050809065445.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uphill Battle to Tackle Indonesian Shark Fishing

Uphill Battle to Tackle Indonesian Shark Fishing

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Sharks are hauled ashore every day at a busy market on the central Indonesian island of Lombok, the hub of a booming trade that provides a livelihood for local fishermen but is increasingly alarming environmentalists. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins