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Reprinted with permission from Professor Rosalind Streichler, Center for Teaching Development, University of California-San Diego.
The goal of most laboratory classes is to make a connection between the theoretical elements of a discipline and the practical aspects of technical performance. In general, there are three objectives which should be considered when teaching a lab:
- Practice and mastery of specific technical skills, such as preparing an agar plate or setting up an apparatus for measuring chemical weight changes
- Mastery of the skills of the scientific process, such as observation, classification, inference, hypothesis development, and design of methods of investigation
- Experience of abstract concepts in a concrete manner, such as measurement and comprehension of free energy or angular momentum
On another level, the lab experience gives students a more intimate knowledge of the discipline and a more intense involvement in the processes of scientific inquiry. Lab work also encourages cooperation and teamwork among students, thus reinforcing the social aspect of learning. Together, all of these elements can contribute to a positive and exciting learning environment.