Biotechnology labs reinvented through experiential learning: Enhancing student outcomes through the “flipped lab” Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This research study involves the use of experiential learning in biotechnology labs to increase student initiative, creativity and problem-solving skills through a “flipped lab” design. A key element for success in undergraduate biotechnology courses is the integration of theory and practice. Biotechnology labs thus require a new synergy of knowledge and experimental implementation. The conventional lab teaching is solely guided by the cookbook–lab manual. Although it is important in science for students to learn how to follow directions, offering only cookbook labs limits students' access to exploration. Since the ultimate goal is to allow students to think and behave like engineers, rather than to solely learn or replicate what other engineers have already done, the apparent disadvantage of this conventional teaching method is that it leaves little room for student initiative, creativity and critical problem solving.Biotechnology lab teaching can therefore be greatly enhanced by the application of experiential learning activities. Since experiential learning adapts a student-centered model of education and integrates themes with real-life applicability, biotechnology lab teaching will be more effective if students can play a more active role in lab design and procedures. This paper describes the design of a novel biotechnology lab teaching method: the “flipped lab”. A one-year assessment study has been conducted to analyze the effects of the “flipped lab” teaching method on learning outcomes as compared to the conventional model. It quantitatively examines whether the new lab design, with its emphasis on biotechnology-specific technical experience, enhanced students’ design lab activities and students’ achievement of skills. The results show moderate to significant improvement in all but one of the assessed skills, indicating that the new “flipped lab” design has been largely successful in achieving its goals.