Active-learning labs for two topics in high school biology were developed through the collaboration of high school teachers and university faculty and staff and were administered to 408 high school students in six classrooms. The content of instruction and testing was guided by State of Texas science objectives. Detailed teacher records describing daily classroom activities were used to operationalize two types of instruction: active learning, which used the labs; and traditional, which used the teaching resources ordinarily available to the teacher. Teacher records indicated that they used less independent work and fewer worksheets, and more collaborative and lab-based activities, with active-learning labs compared to traditional instruction. Inclass test data show that students gained significantly more content knowledge and knowledge of process skills using the labs compared to traditional instruction. Questionnaire data revealed that students perceived greater learning gains after completing the labs compared to covering the same content through traditional methods. An independent questionnaire administered to a larger sample of teachers who used the lab-based curriculum indicated that they perceived changing their behaviors as intended by the student-centered principles of the labs. The major implication of this study is that active-learning-based laboratory units designed and developed collaboratively by high school teachers and university faculty, and then used by high school teachers in their classrooms, can lead to increased use of student-centered instructional practices as well as enhanced content knowledge and process learning for students.
- Laboratory science