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Abstract

Discretion-the exercise of independent judgment-was observed to be lacking in most commercially available laboratory investigations for high school biology. An Extended Discretion (ED) laboratory approach was developed and tested experimentally against the BSCS Green Version laboratory program, using ten classes of 10th-grade biology in a suburban California high school. Five teachers were each assigned one experimental and one control group. The primary differences between the two approaches were that the BSCS was more prescriptive and directive than the ED approach and the ED approach increased discretionary demands upon the student over the school year. A treatment verification procedure showed statistically significant differences between the two approaches. The hypothesis under test was that when high school biology students are taught laboratory concepts under comparatively high discretionary demands, they would perform as well as or better than a similar group of students taught with BSCS Green Version investigations. A second hypothesis was that teachers would prefer to use the ED approach over the BSCS approach for their future classes. A t analysis between experimental and control groups for each teacher was employed. There were significant differences in favor of the ED group on laboratory report scores for three teachers and no differences for two teachers. There were significant differences in favor of the ED group on laboratory concepts quiz scores for three teachers, no differences for one teacher, and significant differences in favor of the BSCS group for only one teacher. A t analysis of teacher evaluation of the two approaches showed a significant teacher preference overall for the ED approach. Both experimental hypotheses were accepted. The ED approach was observed to be difficult for students at first, but it was found to be a workable and productive means of teaching laboratory concepts in biology which also required extensive use of individual student discretion.