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What is a Lab School?

"…we may truly say that the practice school is the laboratory of our larger Training School, for it is here that we test out the best learned in both special and general method, and make many valuable adaptations and discoveries in the process." -May Barrett about The Model School of Teachers Training College (now East Carolina University), 1914 [1]

John DeweyA laboratory school is a school, typically affiliated with a college or university, where teaching methods are practiced and explored.[2,3] Since laboratory schools often function independently of local public schools, laboratory schools are often associated with charter schools. However, a laboratory school is not a charter school; a charter school is a publicly-funded school that functions independently of the city and state in which it is located[4], whereas a lab school is a university-funded public school that functions within the framework of the city/state and/or that of the university[2]. Such schools are also referred to as "demonstration schools", "campus schools", and even "model schools". However, the University of Chicago Laboratory School, started in 1896 by the renowned philosopher/educator John Dewey and after which many laboratory schools are based, was not meant to serve merely as a model, but to develop a model.[5,6] When one first hears the term "lab school", it can be unsettling, thought of as a place where children are experimented on. However, as Dewey reassured the parents in his lab school community that the school did not experiment with children, but for children.[5]

Final East Carolina Child Philosophy Model. Select to view a larger verision.Many universities across the country adopted Dewey's laboratory school concept, including East Carolina University (then called the Teachers Training School) in 1914.[3] The laboratory school that developed out of the Teachers Training School in Greenville was meant to provide student teachers the opportunity to "observe prescribed methods and, subsequently, to permit them to put their learning into practice, under the guiding hand and critical eye of a supervisory teacher."[3] The focus in this case, at least in the beginning, was to train teachers. However, as the lab school model has evolved, it has become a place with a three-way mutual relationship: 1) students benefit from research-based "best practices" and college resources, 2) training teachers benefit from practical experience, and 3) school and community professionals gain training and leadership experience.[7] The new ECU Community School will fulfill these three benefits, especially extending to the entire school, and potentially district, the resources that are being poured into the lab school by the university.

Philosophy in Practice at the Training School, 1939[8]

Measuring, Computing and MakingFinding OutSpeaking and ReadingPortrayingMusic

  1. Barrett, M. (1914). Our practice school. The Training School Quarterly, 1, 14-17.
  2. Laboratory school [Def. b]. (2016, September). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/104723
  3. Bratton, M. J. (1986). East Carolina University: The formative years, 1907-1982. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University Alumni Association.
  4. Charter school [Def 3]. (2016, September). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/30830
  5. Knoll, M. (2014). Laboratory School. In Encyclopedia of Educational Theory and Philosophy, (Vol. 2, pp. 455-458). Retrieved from: http://www.mi-knoll.de/122501.html
  6. Underwood & Underwood (Photographers). Studio portrait of John Dewey [digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Dewey
  7. McLaren, M. S., & Wilcox-Herzog, A. S. (2012). Lessons learned: Building a better laboratory school. NALS Journal, 4(1) http://digitalcommons.ric.edu/nals/
  8. (1939) The Training School. East Carolina Teachers College Bulletin, 30(4).