Doing a lab in school exposes students to the idea of experimentation. When students prepare materials, follow procedures, observe and record data, and reach conclusions, they learn about the world and different approaches to exploring nature. Not only does it serve a pedagogical purpose, it also increases students’ interests in the class. Reading textbooks and listening to lectures might not be enough to keep students’ attention because the material could be boring. However, when students are brought to a lab and get to doing experiments, it gives students a new experience. In addition, doing labs converts ideas, principles, and the theories into practical use. I would hope to understand the world better with doing labs rather than being told through reading others’ work.
In a non-specialist science course, labs are not necessary because there are other methods to teach. Videos, projects, and presentations are useful. That is not to say we should not have labs. Having labs would be fun to have and it might help explain concepts. Compared to a specialist science course, non-specialist science course focuses on specific uses of science. In our case, IDC 3002H focuses a lot on medication innovations and collection of data. “Lab” in non-science courses would be specific to the courses in question. A history course might have a field trip to an important historical location for the lab. It might be an emulation of historical events, like the Boston Tea Party. An American literature course might have a play for the lab. Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar could be lab events. I consider anything that allows students to explore the material personally and physically to be equivalent to a lab.
When assembling a report for a lab, using the same style of academic writing for an English or history class would raise the question about what type of information is needed. In an English class, a reflection of feelings might be appropriate, but not for a scientific report. The latter should include procedures and writing about errors. In a history class, chronological order of events might be useful, but it lacks the data recorded in a scientific report. Finally, the structure of the lab report makes it different from an English essay or history essay. A scientific lab report has sections that contain different information. The essays are usually coherent bodies, which make essays different from lab reports.
Lab reports are based on experiments, but in a school setting, it is rare for experiments to be novel. Usually, experiments published by other scientists are reused and students observe results of previously completed experiments. I hope that students will design their own experiments and enjoy the pleasure of doing something original.