• Use of Applied Labs in Social Science Teaching

      Engbers, Trent
      The use of applied labs has long been an established practice in the physical sciences. This presentation reviews one faculty member’s decision to employ collaborative labs in two social science courses: a theoretical course in public administration and an applied course in research design and data collection. This strategy was piloted in the Fall of 2016 to increase student engagement and the ability to apply classroom learning to a professional context. The labs are collaborative and feature both peer and instructor support. They utilized an established problem-based strategy to demonstrate the real life applicability of academic topics (Kolb 1984; Kramer & Schechter 2011). Research labs asked students to engage in micro-data collection using a range of methods including experiments, sample selection, survey pilot testing. Public administration labs centered around the application of course material to case studies. Each lab was followed up with an independent assignment so that students were exposed to the material on three occasions: 1) when presented and demonstrated by the instructor, 2) when completed collaboratively in the lab, and 3) when completed independently on a take home assignment. This study reports the results of these projects on student course evaluations and learning. Problems identified during implementation were: 1) a hesitancy to work collaboratively, 2) a better fit with the applied research course than the theoretical public administration course, 3) and issues in classroom management. Strategies to handle these problems are addressed.