with materials to observe and understand phenomena (Some forms of practical work such as field trips are thus excluded).
Lunetta defined laboratories as “experiences in school settings in which students interact with materials to observe and understand the natural world” (Lunetta, 1998, p. 249). However, these definitions include only students’ direct interactions with natural phenomena, whereas we include both such direct interactions and also student interactions with data drawn from the material world. In addition, these earlier definitions confine laboratory experiences to schools or other “purposely assigned environments,” but our definition encompasses student observation and manipulation of natural phenomena in a variety of settings, including science museums and science centers, school gardens, local streams, or nearby geological formations. The committee’s definition also includes students who work as interns in research laboratories, after school or during the summer months. All of these experiences, as well as those that take place in traditional school science laboratories, are included in our definition of laboratory experiences.
Both the preceding review of the history of laboratories and the committee’s review of the evidence of student learning in laboratories reveal the limitations of engaging students in replicating the work of scientists. It has become increasingly clear that it is not realistic to expect students to arrive at accepted scientific concepts and ideas by simply experiencing some aspects of scientific research (Millar, 2004). While recognizing these limitations, the committee thinks that laboratory experiences should at least partially reflect the range of activities involved in real scientific research. Providing students with opportunities to participate in a range of scientific activities represents a step toward achieving the learning goals of laboratories identified in Chapter 3.1
Historians and philosophers of science now recognize that the well-ordered scientific method taught in many high school classes does not exist. Scientists’ empirical research in the laboratory or the field is one part of a larger process that may include reading and attending conferences to stay abreast of current developments in the discipline and to present work in progress. As Schwab recognized (1964), the “structure” of current theories and concepts in a discipline acts as a guide to further empirical research. The work of scientists may include formulating research questions, generat-
The goals of laboratory learning are unlikely to be reached, regardless of what type of laboratory experience is provided, unless the experience is well integrated into a coherent stream of science instruction, incorporates other design elements, and is led by a knowledgeable teacher, as discussed in Chapters 3 and 4.