Today the “lab class” is a standard feature of science coursework in high schools and universities across the country. This talk rewinds to the mid-1800s, when such classes were just beginning to appear, and explores how scientists in the United States first began to teach in and through the laboratory. The incorporation of such methods into science education was incredibly rapid: within a generation many American scientists and educators came to view practical laboratory training as essential. In fact they argued that the laboratory method, in which students learned through direct experience by conducting experiments, was the truest and most successful form for all education. The history of this development has often been described as a process of importation of European models. Sarah Reynolds shows how the American collegiate context and early uses of the educational experiment are significant to our understanding of how a generation of “importers” learned to experiment in the first place.
Sarah Reynolds, Assistant Professor in Physics and Earth-Space Science at the University of Indianapolis
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