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ERIC Number: EJ1136288
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jul
Pages: 18
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1931-4744
Revealing Student Thinking about Experimental Design and the Roles of Control Experiments
Shi, Jia; Power, Joy M.; Klymkowsky, Michael W.
International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, v5 n2 Article 8 Jul 2011
Well-designed "controls" distinguish experimental from non-experimental studies. Surprisingly, we found that a high percentage of students had difficulty identifying control experiments even after completing three university-level laboratory courses. To address this issue, we designed and ran a revised cell biology lab course in which students participated in weekly "experimental control exercises." To measure student understanding of control experiments, we developed a set of assessment questions; these were given to students prior to and following completion of either a standard cell biology lab course or the revised cell biology lab course. Not unexpectedly, the results indicate that the revised course led to greater improvements in students' ability to identify and explain the purpose of control experiments. Based on these observations, we recommend that explicit and detailed discussions designed to identify the design and purpose behind control experiments become a standard component of all laboratory courses.
Centers for Teaching & Technology at Georgia Southern University. IJ-SoTL, Georgia Southern University, Henderson Library 1301, Statesboro, GA 30460. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Colorado
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A