Laboratory experiences provide opportunities for students to interact directly with the material world (or with data drawn from the material world), using the tools, data collection techniques, models, and theories of science.
At TAS, students have opportunities to design investigations, engage in scientific reasoning, manipulate equipment, record data, analyze results, and discuss their findings. These skills and knowledge, fostered by laboratory investigations, are an important part of inquiry—the process of asking questions and conducting experiments as a way to understand the natural world. While reading about science, using computer simulations, and observing teacher demonstrations may be valuable, they are not a substitute for laboratory investigations by students.
Science education includes learning about the methods and processes of scientific research (science process) and the knowledge derived through this process (science content). Science process centers on direct interactions with the natural world aimed at explaining natural phenomena. Science education would not be about science if it did not include opportunities for students to learn about both the process and the content of science. Laboratory experiences provide students with such relevant opportunities.
Science learning goals that have been attributed to laboratory experiences, include:
- enhancing mastery of subject matter;
- developing scientific reasoning;
- understanding the complexity and ambiguity of empirical work;
- developing practical skills;
- understanding the nature of science;
- cultivating interest in science and interest in learning science; and
- developing teamwork abilities.