lab instruction

(The FASEB Journal. 1999; 13(4):A361)

Improving Conceptual Change During Laboratory Instruction.

H. Modell and J. Michael
NRCLSE, Seattle, WA 98115 and Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL 60612.

Over half of undergraduate students entering physiology hold the misconception that when ventilation increases during exercise, tidal volume either decreases or remains unchanged (Michael, Adv. Physiol. Educ., 19: S90-S98, 1998). We examined how three different protocols directing students in a laboratory exercise impacted conceptual change. Students (404 undergraduates at 4 institutions) were tested to see if they held the misconception before and after performing an experiment in which they measured the effect of exercise on tidal volume and frequency. The first group followed a traditional written “observe and record” protocol. Students in the second group were given a written protocol asking them to complete a prediction table before running the experiment. Students in the third group were given the written “prediction” protocol, but were also required to tell the instructor their predictions before running the experiment. Results showed that the lab exercise, regardless of protocol, helped students remedy the misconception (P<0.05). The two written protocols were equally effective. However, “forcing” students to verbalize their predictions yielded a higher remediation rate than the written protocols alone (P<0.05). Hence, laboratory instruction is more effective when students are compelled to test their mental models (i.e., compare expectations to results) than when they are required only to “discover” the outcome of the experiment. (Funded by NSF Grant No. DUE-9652782.)

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