The development, implementation and evaluation of alternative approaches to teaching and learning in the chemistry laboratory
Kelly, Orla (2005) The development, implementation and evaluation of alternative approaches to teaching and learning in the chemistry laboratory. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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The focus of the thesis is on the evaluation of the effect of the implementation of a three-hour per week problem-based learning (PBL) module for 1SI year undergraduate
students. The research questions are outlined below:
• What approaches to learning are undergraduate students adopting at the initial stage of tertiary education?
• Are student approaches to learning related to age/gender/ time in university/achievement in examinations?
• Can a PBL module in chemistry be developed that can provide an effective teaching and learning environment, which develops students’ understanding in chemistry and engages the students with the context and processes o f chemistry?
• Will the introduction of such a PBL module in chemistry have an effect on students’ approaches to learning?
The main evaluation tool for determining student approaches to learning was the
learning style inventory - Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students. Other evaluation tools employed were student surveys, interviews and assessment data.
Key findings were that students on entry to tertiary level report a preference for deep and strategic approaches to learning over a surface approach. However, with time in university, the profile shifts with students indicating increasing use o f a surface approach. Mature students tended to prefer a deep approach in comparison to their younger counterparts and female students were more strategic than males in their
An introductory year-long chemistry PBL laboratory module was developed, implemented and evaluated. Interestingly, students who took part in the PBL module showed a lower preference for a surface approach having successfully completed the PBL module compared to those who followed the traditional approach despite showing similar trends at the start of the study. The effect on a deep approach to learning, after taking the PBL module, one sixth of the 1st year course, was not evident however. Conversely, the PBL students did significantly better in a non-formal exam designed to assess students learning in the first year chemistry laboratory. The students also successfully engaged with the chemistry content, context and processes and reported the benefit of the pre-lab, group work and practical aspects of the PBL approach.
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