IMPORTANCE OF LABORATORY IN SCIENCE EDUCATION
In association with other professional scientific groups and organizations, the Virginia Academy of Science strongly supports the laboratory experience as an integral part of science education at all levels. Science is a study of natural phenomena and requires a laboratory component which permits and encourages discovery and creativity. Science faculty welcome electronic technology as a potentially effective tool to expand and to enhance instruction. However, it can neither duplicate nor replace learning experiences afforded to students through hands-on lab and field activities. These hands-on laboratory and field experiences:
- engage students in open-ended investigative processes, using scientific problem solving
- provide application of information students have heard and seen in lecture, thereby reinforcing and clarifying scientific principles and concepts
- involve multiple senses in three-dimensional rather than two-dimensional learning experiences important for greater retention of concepts and for accommodation of different leaning styles
- stimulate students to understand the nature of science including its unpredictability and complexity
- provide opportunities to engage in collaborative work and to model scientific attitudes and behavior
- develop mastery of techniques and skills needed for potential science, engineering, and technology majors
- ensure science course transferability to four-year schools as well as to graduate and professional schools within and outside of Virginia
In summary, the knowledge gained from science courses with a strong laboratory component enables students to understand in more practical and concrete ways their own physical makeup, the functioning of the natural world around them, environmental issues, etc. It is only by maintaining hands-on lab experiences that the brightest and most promising potential science majors will be stimulated and not turned off by lecture only approaches to science. These lab courses may offer many students their only opportunity to experience a science laboratory environment. These same students as potential voters, parents, teachers, legislators, developers, and land use planners benefit from a well-rounded educational experience, including laboratory experience, in making sound decisions for the future of Virginia.
This resolution was approved unanimously by both the Virginia Academy of Science Council (the organization’s governing board) on May 24, 1995 and by the Academy Conference, on May 25, 1995 at the VAS Annual Meeting at VMI.
VAS RESOLUTION REGARDING EQUITY OF TEACHING CREDIT AND TEACHING LOAD FOR SCIENCE FACULTY TEACHING LABORATORY COURSES
At the 1995 VAS annual meeting a resolution supporting the importance of laboratories in science education received unanimous support of Academy members. However, at most public and many private colleges and universities in Virginia, teaching credits for laboratory teaching is often only given one third to one half that of lecture experience. The credit hours of science faculty teaching loads are often much higher than that of colleagues in other disciplines. Such inequity of teaching credit and teaching loads of science faculty at these institutions does not reflect the importance of the laboratory experience.
In Association with other scientific groups and organizations, the Virginia Academy of Science strongly supports the concept of equity of teaching credit and teaching loads for faculty teaching laboratory courses. The laboratory experience is an integral and critical component of science courses. Teaching labs and credit afforded to faculty teaching laboratory courses should reflect equity relative to that of faculty in other disciplines.
After extensive discussion, the resolution was unanimously approved by the Academy membership present at the Conference. Virginia Academy of Science Academy Conference 74th Annual Meeting, May 23, 1996, VCU
VAS RESOLUTION ON THE TALLOIRES DECLARATION
WHEREAS, in the Talloires Declaration of 1991, the leaders of twenty universities from all regions of the world, agreed to “use every opportunity to raise public, government, industry, foundation, and university awareness of…the urgent need to move toward an environmentally sustainable future. . .[and to]… ensure that all university graduates are environmentally literate and responsible citizens;”
AND WHEREAS, at the suggestion of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University President James McComas, Virginia college and university presidents who are members of The Presidents Council have endorsed The Talloires Declaration and the ten-point action program included therein;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The Virginia Academy of Science offer its assistance to the college and university presidents of the Commonwealth in implementing the program, in particular with regard to the establishment of a steering committee and a secretariat,
AND, FURTHERMORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The Virginia Academy of Science request the said college and university presidents to inform The Virginia Academy of Science of plans for implementation and of actions taken on their campuses pursuant to the accomplishment of The Tailloires Declaration.
Unanimously adopted by the Council of The Virginia Academy of Science, May21, 1993.
STATEMENT OF THE POSITION OF
THE VIRGINIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCE
ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION
Science is three-fold. It consists of a body of information, a theoretical structure for organizing that information, and a method for generating new information and testing new theories. An acceptable scientific theory must be consistent with the available data and be subject to experimental verification. Any theory that cannot be tested lies outside the domain of science.
The central organizing principle of biology is the theory of evolution. It is consistent with the data of systematics, comparative anatomy and biochemistry, genetics, embryology and paleontology. It has been tested by the methods of population genetics and experimental breeding. Its detailed interpretation is subject to revision by the normal methods of science in the course of experimentation and peer review.
It is the duty of the scientific community to resist unwarranted political and religious intrusion into the domain of science. The Virginia Academy of Science, therefore, affirms the propriety of teaching the theory of evolution in secondary schools, colleges, and universities, and maintains that the curricula should conform to the highest professional standards of the various scientific disciplines.
Approved unanimously by the VAS Council, May 13, 1981
Other State Academies of Science have also dealt with the Evolution/Creation controversy. The Iowa Academy of Science, as an example, has published a position paper which may be accessed from their web site.