When I took lab classes for chemistry last year, I didn’t really find them to be beneficial or helpful to me because it seemed like we were just doing busy work. It was repetitive and not relevant to the class, but it did teach me a lot of lab techniques. This is why I am conducting this research, because I want to see if the biology labs are going to be relevant or if they are just busy work like the chemistry labs.
From the looks of the class so far, I seem to be learning valuable lab techniques, like using micropipettes, and learning how to use a compound microscope that actual biologists use in their day-to-day lab. On the other hand, not all the experiments are relevant to the class and they don’t usually match up with the material we are learning in lecture. For example, in lab there is a part where we learn about plant genetics, and we haven’t covered genetics in class yet so we have to know some background information about genetics when we haven’t learned anything about it yet. Sometimes it can be frustrating and confusing because we can’t answer the questions without some kind of background knowledge. Similarly, we also learn things in lab class that we won’t go into as much depth as we do in lecture so we are learning material we won’t need to necessarily know. It’s just information to help us do the experiment, which is important but can sometimes be strenuous and confusing.
Additionally, the experimental design is a little flawed too, but it also has its benefits. For example, the procedures of the labs are straight forward and are instructional. They tell you, “Measure 3 mL of solution A and add it to solution B,” so it becomes habitual to just follow the instructions and not think about what you are actually doing. I find myself in class saying, “What do I do next?” instead of, “Why am I doing this? What should the results be?” Those two questions are extremely important in an experiment because a scientist needs to know why these steps are happening and how it’s going to affect the results. When any scientist conducts and experiment for a specific field, they have to come up with a list of procedures and steps to obtain a certain outcome. So it’s important for us as students to ask ourselves the question, “Why am I doing this?” so we can go through the same process the scientist went through when they conducted the experiment themselves. Then we can use that knowledge and critical thinking in our own research in the future. To obtain this kind of critical thinking, our lab notebooks have questions we have to answer that make us think about the task at hand and analyze what is going on and better our understanding of the experiment. But once again, the questions are helpful but they become habitual and instead of wanting to know the answer for our own knowledge, we tend to want to answer the question for our own grades. Overall, I think the lab class does a good job at setting us up for good lab technique habits, but it also falls a little short when it comes to real critical thinking.