A Small-Scale Concept-based Laboratory Component: The Best of Both Worlds

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA.
CBE life sciences education (Impact Factor: 1.89). 02/2006; 5(1):41-51. DOI: 10.1187/cbe.05-02-0065
Source: PubMed


In this article, we describe an exploratory study of a small-scale, concept-driven, voluntary laboratory component of Introductory Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We wished to investigate whether students' attitudes toward biology and their understanding of basic biological principles would improve through concept-based learning in a laboratory environment. With these goals in mind, and using our Biology Concept Framework as a guide, we designed laboratory exercises to connect topics from the lecture portion of the course and highlight key concepts. We also strove to make abstract concepts tangible, encourage learning in nonlecture format, expose the students to scientific method in action, and convey the excitement of performing experiments. Our initial small-scale assessments indicate participation in the laboratory component, which featured both hands-on and minds-on components, improved student learning and retention of basic biological concepts. Further investigation will focus on improving the balance between the minds-on concept-based learning and the hands-on experimental component of the laboratory.

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Available from: Dina Gould Halme, Jun 20, 2014
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    • "Research-oriented open-ended labs promote the development of scientific thinking skills and their application to real-world scientific problems by providing students with opportunities to investigate a problem and make conclusions about their results [27] [28] [29]. By learning the biological principles underlying the steps of the particular experimental technique, students develop higher order critical-thinking skills and can correct misconceptions. "
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