5 Exciting Ways to Teach Experimental Design Without Lecturing

Job Brisby Eloja

For many students, science is synonymous with experiments. Performing experiments can be the most exciting part of learning science for students of all levels. 

Experimental design, though, is a completely different story. It’s a lot more challenging to create experiments than to perform them. Yet experimental design is an essential skill for students planning to take STEM courses.

At first, experimental design can be a daunting topic for students to learn. Thankfully, there are creative ways to introduce them in the classroom. Here are five examples of such techniques.

1. Use Interactive Demonstrations of Experimental Design

Experiments are meant to be interactive. Experimental design should be as well. With that, it’s a good idea to teach experimental design through interactive demonstrations. It will teach students how to create their own experimental procedures in a much more hands-on way.

Students can be made to design their own experiments in the lab. There, they can see what happens in their proposed procedures. If they are not satisfied, they can make changes right away. 

Computerized lab simulations also work well. They can manipulate tools, equipment, and reagents all from a safe virtual environment. There is no risk of dangerous spills, contamination, or equipment damage if students make mistakes. With that, they will be more encouraged to explore different experimental designs.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Contrary to popular belief, games can actually make the learning process a lot more effective for students. Games allow students to learn while having fun. Most of the time, they are not even aware that they’re learning as they play. But when you give them a test, they will likely get great scores.

Games can include simulations like the Experimental Design virtual lab from Labster. This simulation will teach students the principles of the scientific method as well as how to design effective experiments that satisfy the objectives of their study. The virtual lab will also let them identify experimental variables and test which ones they need to manipulate.

Experimental design in action, planning and analyis virtual lab.
Discover Labster's Experimental Design virtual lab!

3. Integrate Technology in Teaching This Topic

Using various technologies to teach this topic is one of the best ways to make students more interested. Videos, interactive presentations, apps, and games can make experimental design a lot more engaging to learn.

Videos, for example, can help students master the concepts behind good experimental design. Students can watch videos at their own pace and repeat them as many times as they need to. This way, they can master the topic more easily.

Interactive presentations can help students achieve the same thing. Students can go through these presentations and repeat certain parts as needed. Similarly, this tool can facilitate better mastery of the topic.

Apps can provide an extra layer of learning outside the classroom. As long as students have their smartphones in hand, they can play around with learning apps. With these, students can study this topic anywhere they may be.

4. Introduce Possible Careers for Inspiration

Students are more engaged in studying topics they know they can use in the future. You can achieve this by introducing careers that use experimental design on a regular basis. These include:

  • Research scientist
  • Pharmaceutical chemist
  • Chemical engineer
  • Biotechnology researcher
  • Cosmetic scientist

This is not an exhaustive list. Most careers in STEM fields use experimental design often at work. So if your students want to explore STEM careers, you can encourage them to master experimental design. 

5. Connect It to Real-World Applications

Tell students how they can use experimental design in real life. This is an excellent way to increase their engagement in the topic. 

Experimental design makes use of principles of the scientific method. These can not only be applied in the lab, but also in other aspects of life.

At home, for example, they can design experiments to solve real-life problems. For instance, a student who has an ant infestation at home can experiment with different mixtures to ward off ants. Through these home experiments, the student can find the best solution to remove ants from his house.

Final Thoughts

Experimental design may be a complicated topic, but teaching it does not have to be that hard. Methods like games, interactive demonstrations, simulations, and career introductions can make students more interested and engaged in learning. 

Experimental model with a mouse and different objects in a virtual lab.

In particular, a simulation like Labster’s Experimental Design virtual lab is effective in helping students master this topic. This virtual lab puts students in charge of a pharmaceutical scientist designing experiments to test the effects of an unknown drug. Students can enhance their knowledge of the scientific method, as well as gain valuable skills in creating experiments.

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and play the Experimental Design simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!
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