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National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

America's Lab Report:

Investigations in High School Science










Report Brief


Background Papers
Laboratory experiences as a part of most U.S. high school science curricula have been taken for granted for decades, but they have rarely been carefully examined. What do they contribute to science learning? What can they contribute to science learning? What is the current status of labs in our nation’s high schools as a context for learning science? This report is an objective examination of high school science laboratories and looks at a range of questions about how laboratory experiences fit into U.S. high schools:
  • What is effective laboratory teaching?
  • What does research tell us about learning in high school science labs?
  • How should student learning in laboratory experiences be assessed?
  • Do all students have access to laboratory experiences?
  • What changes need to be made to improve laboratory experiences for high school students?
  • How can school organization contribute to effective laboratory teaching?

Based on the evidence, this report identifies a set of goals for laboratory experiences and outlines principles of instructional design that can help laboratory experiences achieve their intended learning outcomes. The context and policy issues related to providing quality laboratory experiences are then considered and include attention to teacher preparation and professional development, laboratory facilities, school organization, and state standards.


This study was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation.


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