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An evaluation and redevelopment of current laboratory practices : an in-depth study into the differences between learning and teaching styles


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Pullen, R 2016 , 'An evaluation and redevelopment of current laboratory practices : an in-depth study into the differences between learning and teaching styles', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The study described within this thesis encompassed a series of cross-sectional case studies
that were completed over a number of chemistry units offered at the University of Tasmania,
Australia. This investigation aimed to compare three teaching approaches applied within the
chemistry-teaching laboratory; the teaching approaches chosen being Expository, Guided
Inquiry, and Problem Solving. Prior to this investigation, the prevalent laboratory teaching
approach at the University of Tasmania most closely resembled the Expository approach.
Through comparison of these teaching approaches it was intended to explore the advantages
and/or disadvantages with respect to the level of chemistry and the type of experiments
considered. A broad variety of experiments were selected from units offered within
foundation, first, second, and third year level chemistry units. Through modification of these
pre-existing experiments, a representative version of the selected experiments for each
teaching approach was produced.
To analyse these different teaching methods, three perspectives were considered. Firstly, a
student and demonstrator completed survey. Secondly, a post-experimental quiz targeting the
students' understanding of the concepts and techniques within the laboratory. Finally, a
demonstrator assigned grade of the students’ performance and understanding throughout the
laboratory was supplied. All data collected was de-identified and voluntary, as per the ethics
approval (H0012564) procedure, upon completion of each experiment. Statistical analysis of
quantitative data was completed using a one-way between groups ANOVA with post-hocs
tests using SPSS. Qualitative data was analysed through common themes analysis.
The intended aims of this project can be separated into local and global aims. At the local level
it was intended to improve the student experience of the chemistry laboratories for both
those students undertaking chemistry as their focus of study and those undertaking chemistry
as an elective or prerequisite. The measures of this improvement would be an increase in the
engagement and enjoyment of students, greater development of chemistry specific knowledge,
and the development of a broader skill set including problem-solving skills and critical thinking.
For the global implications of this study, two outcomes are intended. Firstly, the
methodologies and outcomes observed from this practical could be utilised by other institutes.
Secondly, the comparison of these teaching approaches provides insight into the interactions
between alternative teaching approaches and the experiments commonly used within
chemistry teaching laboratories.
Analysis of the data collected throughout these study indicated that statistically significant
differences were mostly limited to the perceptions of students provided through the student completed
surveys. Of interest was the finding that at the foundation chemistry level, those
students who have not undertaken chemistry before university, a gradual increase of the
student ownership over the course of the semester was of most benefit. The results for the
first year chemistry comparison indicated however, that the teaching approaches were
independently suited to different experiments with no pattern observed. The second and third
year units did not result in any definitive outcomes. Of most value from this project are the
methodologies used, in addition to the benefits observed for the local development of the
laboratories at the University of Tasmania.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Pullen, R
Keywords: chemistry, laboratory,Education, problem-solving, inquiry, expository
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Copyright 2016 the Author

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