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SPIP: Lab-based Learning


Lab-based learning is suited for disciplines that are based on experimentation and empirical data such as science and engineering. Beyond learning laboratory skills and techniques in the traditional lab, lab-based learning is a pedagogy that can be used to develop the professional competencies of scientists and engineers, such as the scientific method, project management, as well as technical  communication and presentation.  

These competencies are developed through an inquiry-based, project-based or  problem-based approach with the laboratory as the central focus, through designing experiments to solve open ended problems, conducting experiments and managing the project, collecting, analysing and interpreting data and communicating the findings and conclusions.


What are some key elements of inquiry-based labs? This short video is part of a series of videos on inquiry-based labs.

CIRTL MOOC. (2015, September 10). Principles and definitions of inquiry-based labs.
       Retrieved from

Michelle Driessen, a lecturer from The University of Minnesota shares how she converted a traditional chemistry lab to an inquiry-based lab.

Centre for Educational Innovation - University of Minnesota. (2015, May 27). Inquiry-
       based labs
- Michelle Driessen - University of Minnesota. Retrieved from https://


Lecturers at the University of Nottingham share how they introduced mini-projects into the undergraduate Chemistry curriculum to provide opportunities to develop the disciplinary competencies.

At Indiana University, lecturers implemented real-world project-based learning in a large laboratory through which students learnt the techniques while carrying out their projects. This led to improved student engagement and performance in the laboratory.

Lab-based Learning vs Learning in a Lab

Book Resources


Professor Pedagogy’s advice to a teaching assistant on meaningful learning in the lab

How are inquiry-based labs different from more traditional labs? A short 1-page article from College of Charleston