Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Lucia Chacon-Diaz, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Background: The traditional teaching approach for general chemistry laboratories require students to follow a step-wise procedure. On the other hand, an inquiry-based approach exposes students to a problem. The students must solve the given problem by designing their own laboratory experiments. The objective of this study was to compare the behaviors, interactions, attitudes and self-efficacy beliefs of students enrolled in two general chemistry laboratories with two different pedagogical approaches. Methods: A causal-comparative design and a case study methodology were applied for the study. Data was collected in the form of field note observations, focus group interviews, and a self-efficacy questionnaire. The field note observations were taken during both laboratory classes in a spring semester. The focus group interviews and self-efficacy questionnaire data were collected at the end of the semester. Data from the self-efficacy questionnaire was run through SPSS. A factor analysis confirmed the validity of the questionnaire. A two-tailed independent t-test was performed in order to detect significant differences between the two pedagogical approaches with respect to students’ attitudes towards chemistry and self-efficacy beliefs. Results: In terms of behavior, gender roles were reinforced in both laboratories. Females tend to perform more writing tasks than males. Similarly, males tend to set up the laboratory equipment more frequently than females. With regard to interactions, the inquiry-based laboratory maintained throughout the semester a higher level of interaction among the students. Nevertheless, the inquiry-based laboratory decreased the interaction between instructor and students. In contrast, the traditional laboratory experienced a low level of interaction throughout the semester among the students, but a high level of interaction between instructor and students. There was no significant difference in the attitudes towards chemistry regardless of the pedagogical approach applied. However, there was significant difference in the self-efficacy beliefs. Students enrolled in the inquiry-based laboratory had higher self-efficacy beliefs compared to their peers in the traditional laboratory (p ≤ 0.05). Conclusions: Inquiry-based teaching approach can serve as a novel strategy to increase students’ self-efficacy beliefs. Increasing students’ interactions in the laboratory has the potential to further the development of collaborative skills. The preparation of prospective scientists through the exposure of problem solving and collaborative work in general chemistry laboratories will prepare students to engage themselves into the scientific workforce, at the early stages of college.