State of Laboratory Manual Instruction in California Community College Introductory (non-majors) Biology Laboratory Instruction
ProQuest, 2007 - 225 pages
College students must complete a life science course prior to graduation for a bachelor's degree. Generally, the course has lecture and laboratory components. It is in the laboratory where there are exceptional opportunities for exploration, challenge and application of the material learned. Optimally, this would utilize the best of inquiry based approaches. Most community colleges are using a home-grown or self written laboratory manual for the direction of work in the laboratory period. Little was known about the motivation, development and adaptation of use. It was also not known about the future of the laboratory manuals in light of the recent learning reform in California Community Colleges, Student Learning Outcomes. Extensive interviews were conducted with laboratory manual authors to determine the motivation, process of development, who was involved and learning framework used in the creation of the manuals. It was further asked of manual authors their ideas about the future of the manual, the development of staff and faculty and finally, the role Student Learning Outcomes would play in the manual. Science faculty currently teaching the non-majors biology laboratories for at least two semesters were surveyed on-line about actual practice of the manual, assessment, manual flexibility, faculty training and incorporation of Student Learning Outcomes. Finally, an evaluation of the laboratory manual was done using an established Laboratory Task Analysis Instrument. Laboratory manuals were evaluated on a variety of categories to determine the level of inquiry instruction done by students in the laboratory section. The results were that the development of homegrown laboratory manuals was done by community colleges in the Los Angeles and Orange Counties in an effort to minimize the cost of the manual to the students, to utilize all the exercises in a particular lab and to effectively utilize the materials already owned by the department. Further, schools wanted to utilize the current faculty research expertise and knowledge. Unfortunately, laboratory manual authors had no real learning framework in the development of the manual. Based on the LAI, most manuals focused on the lowest levels of inquiry based instruction. Most manuals focused exercises on cell and molecular topics. The manuals had little student exploration, creation or design in the laboratory exercise and no option for repeating the exercise. There was a clear desire of faculty and authors to improve the laboratory experience and manual. Authors and faculty wished to include more inquiry and utilize the best of Student Learning Outcome (SLO) methodologies. Authors and the laboratory manuals have a major disconnect in that authors have clear desires inquiry based learning for the manual but do not effectively implement the inquiry based learning for various reasons. The manuals themselves, laboratory manuals themselves are not robust inquiry based learning models to maximize student learning. Authors and faculty are disconnected in that authors know what they want their manuals to do...but do not effectively communicate that to faculty. Finally, schools are in a "wait and see" approach as to when to integrate the latest learning theory mandated by the Chancellors Office -- Student Learning Outcomes.
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