Tuesday, July 17, 2012

...and Times are Getting Better!

How could we do multiple dissections?
So summarizing from my most recent blog:
  • science is more interesting when you are "doing" science
  • even when doing labs, most students do not really learn more
One point of view might be to abolish labs given the above phrases. Another perspective though is to understand how to get what we want out of the lab experience. Let's go back to the gym for a moment.

Basketball players learn to play by repeating complex body motions many times. Shooting, dribbling and passing in different situations require different actions from the body to be performed quickly. Thinking about these as one might in a game of chess would doom one to failure - reaction rules the day. The only way that this is possible is after each action is rehearsed and practiced. Here is the key: It is practiced, and feedback is provided. Feedback! This feedback allows for correction of faulty motions, and improivement of behavior during a game. In other words: learning!

Now, back to the lab. Think back to your lab experiences and ask yourself how many were experiences that were repeated. I suspect not many! Maybe you dissected a frog. When you did this, most likely, you and your lab partner made a mistake. It may have been a small one, or a catastrophic one! In either case, you recieved feedback, perhaps in the form of a grade on your lab report, and then scurried along to new content and another lab. Master did not occur. It was a "cool" experience, and memorable. Yet, were you able to see the impressive leg muscles, or the interesting structure of the frog heart? It is doubtful. What if you had the chance to do the experiment many times, recieving feedback each time? How might this occur?

As technology improves, there are many ways to "skin a cat" (or a lab, or a frog). Suffice it to say that a scientific concept is not something that should be practiced once and only once. After all, that first attempt at a lab is usually awkward at best! Students need opportunities to practice labs, and parts of the scientific process until mastered. That usually means MORE THAN ONCE! Let me leave you dear reader with this thought: "If the labs you did were so much fun that you still remember them, would they not have been far more fun to do several times!"

How this can be practically accomplished without killing many many frogs or depleating stressed school funding will be something that we touch upon together in my next post. I still want to hear about your favorite labs and how they may have been made even more fun, or hear about your least favorite labs!

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