The laboratory has been given a central and distinctive role in science education, and science educators have suggested that rich benefits in learning accrue from using laboratory activities. Twenty years have been elapsed since we published a frequently cited, critical review of the research on the school science laboratory (Hofstein & Lunetta, Rev. Educ. Res.52(2), 201–217, 1982). Twenty years later, we are living in an era of dramatic new technology resources and new standards in science education in which learning by inquiry has been given renewed central status. Methodologies for research and assessment that have developed in the last 20 years can help researchers seeking to understand how science laboratory resources are used, how students' work in the laboratory is assessed, and how science laboratory activities can be used by teachers to enhance intended learning outcomes. In that context, we take another look at the school laboratory in the light of contemporary practices and scholarship. This analysis examines scholarship that has emerged in the past 20 years in the context of earlier scholarship, contemporary goals for science learning, current models of how students construct knowledge, and information about how teachers and students engage in science laboratory activities. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed88:28–54, 2004; Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI 10.1002/.sce10106