|Lab days were usually the best of science days!|
I spent the first part of my career teaching. Coaching basketball was a second vocation. I have always believed that coaches provide far superior teaching strategies that are individualized than common classroom teachers. One key to this is "doing" time. A good coach will spend 10% of his time teaching in front of a group, and the other 90% providing practice and feedback. Practice, practice, practice. Bobby Knight, the volatile but revered former coach of Texas Tech and Indiana commented many times: "Perfect practice makes perfect."
Let's return to our science experiences. Dissections, titrations, and modeling were activities that most of us enjoyed more than the day to day lecture from a teacher. The images, interactions and stories that remain with us indicate that the learning that took place was "sticky". I even recall vividly that my lab partner spilled hot cabbage juice indicator all over my light-colored pants in 10th grade, and the explosion that resulted in my college lab when a fellow student did not quite clear all of the sodium out of a test tube before cleaning it (it ended in a bang!). Still, do we remember why we were doing these things? Did we get out of those experiences much more than good memories?
I would suggest that the answer is "no" unfortunately. I have to admit that on these days, the most memorable, enjoyable days of my science learning, I found myself lost almost all of the time. I was simply hopeful that I might get enough data to complete the lab subsequent lab report, or complete the activity without looking foolish. In my physics class, I was so lost based on the results of my lab work that I did not submit several labs! I loved labs, but I something about the experience left me feeling woefully inadequate.
Now that I have outlined a major, well understood challenge in science learning, in my next posts let's explore together some potential solutions - I am hopeful that as we do this, you might come up with some observations, suggestions and practices that I might not have thought of. That's why meeting at a "crossroads" can lead to a productive, enjoyable dialogue. Let's have a cup of coffee and chat about making labs better.