Designing Indoor Labs
Principles and general resources
The 2005 National Research Council publication America's Lab Report identifies (p. 197):
For an example of how to apply these principles, see Designing Inquiry Based Instructional Units in Genomics. Additional useful material on many aspects of designing and organizing lab experiences comes from handbooks designed for university graduate assistants, such as this one from the University of Michigan and this one from Indiana University.
The following sections (and their associated pages) are organized around the sequence of tasks a lab instructor encounters while designing labs; the NRC "principles" apply to each of these elements.
Structuring time during an indoor lab
Most students need a sense of the goals of the lab, how the work fits into the course and what the faculty expect to happen during and after the lab time. Even if the lab time on a particular day is devoted to working on part of a longer project, it is important to conceive the lab time structurally, with a beginning, middle and end.Learn more about Structuring Indoor Lab Time
Working in groups
Having students work in groups during a lab has many advantages, such as better science, gains in student interpersonal skills, potentially simpler management and potential time savings. Much research on group work suggests a few basic principles: structure assignments so that group work is essential; develop some measures of individual accountability for how the group works; and consider clearly defining different group roles. These and other guidelines are discussed in the cooperative learning module.
Combining modeling and data analysis with other lab tasks
Indoor labs can be designed that ask students to combine experimental results or data collected from monitoring with other tasks, such as modeling and data analysis.
Preparing lab handouts
Faculty members use a variety of methods to construct lab handouts (written material students are expected to read before the start of the lab, materials used during the lab and materials that explain post-lab assignments). In preparing lab handouts, you'll want to consider factors of length, organization, format (on paper, on the web), relationship to pre-existing student knowledge and others. SERC modules on ConcepTests, Just-in-Time Teaching and Knowledge Surveys all provide methods to determine student prior knowledge and pre-conceptions that can be extremely useful in creating and adapting lab handouts.Learn more about Writing lab handouts