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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2006 Spring;5(1):41-51.

A small-scale concept-based laboratory component: the best of both worlds.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA.


In this article, we describe an exploratory study of a small-scale, concept-driven, voluntary laboratory component of Introductory Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We wished to investigate whether students' attitudes toward biology and their understanding of basic biological principles would improve through concept-based learning in a laboratory environment. With these goals in mind, and using our Biology Concept Framework as a guide, we designed laboratory exercises to connect topics from the lecture portion of the course and highlight key concepts. We also strove to make abstract concepts tangible, encourage learning in nonlecture format, expose the students to scientific method in action, and convey the excitement of performing experiments. Our initial small-scale assessments indicate participation in the laboratory component, which featured both hands-on and minds-on components, improved student learning and retention of basic biological concepts. Further investigation will focus on improving the balance between the minds-on concept-based learning and the hands-on experimental component of the laboratory.

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