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

posted on 2023-05-27, 11:02 authored by Pullen, R
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.


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