GALL Laboratory: A Promising Practice in Applying Problem-Based Learning
The Gill Advanced Learning Laboratory (GALL) at Lamar University provides a unique science learning environment for students with disabilities. It is funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) program.
In this project, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is being used in several advanced science classes that include Electrochemistry, Corrosion, and Advanced Catalysis. PBL is an instructional method that challenges students to "learn to learn," working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students and initiate learning the subject matter.
GALL laboratory is a technology center that works to advance technology for a number of reasons, one of which is increasing the number of students with disabilities in science classrooms. The lab is a place where new technologies in the classroom are discovered and tested regularly. In the GALL project, the classroom learning laboratory has four group study tables, each equipped with six computers, a printer, a smart board, and an LCD that is visible to each group table. This arrangement accommodates six people at each table and engages students in group assignments at their work stations or brings them together for a common class presentation by linking the feed of the LCD above them.
This experimental classroom, according to GALL directors, benefits students with a variety of learning styles, abilities, and other characteristics by taking particular real-life problems in hard science subjects and using technology to address learning in multiple ways. By encouraging unique ways of understanding a particular idea and emphasizing conceptualization, this classroom can aid those that need alternate ways of understanding advanced scientific topics aside from the standard "lecture style" learning. Ideally, more classrooms like those at GALL and Lamar University can effectively engage more students in advanced hard sciences.