What Are Science Labs For? Laboratory Work as Apprenticeship

John Mays considers how treating lab work as an apprenticeship in which skills are learned by watching a master (or journeyman), imitating him under his critical eye and practicing until the skill is mastered.

It is all too easy to regard laboratory experiments as activities to hustle through and be done with so we can get back to the regular lessons. But if our classes are to serve our students the way they should, we should consider treating lab work as an apprenticeship in which skills are learned by watching a master (or journeyman), imitating him under his critical eye and practicing until the skill is mastered. From measurement techniques to apparatus assembly, if we treat our labs as apprenticeships that focus on transmission of skills, attitudes and ways of thinking, our students’ experience – and our relationships with them – will be transformed.

John Mays

After receiving his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University, John spent 14 years working in engineering before acquiring a master's degree in education from the University of Houston. Shortly aft er joining the faculty at Regents School of Austin, John completed his master's degree in liberal arts at St. Edward's University. John served as the Chair of the Math-Science Department until 2009, when he became Director of the Laser Optics Lab. He founded Novare Science & Math in 2009, and is the author of numerous science texts and teacher resources. Now working full-time as a writer, publisher and consultant, John continues to teach students part-time at Regents.

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