Publication Details (including relevant citation information):
Oral presentation to be given at ACS National Meeting 2015.
There has been a push in higher education to integrate research experiences into the undergraduate curriculum. It is suggested that inclusion of authentic research activities in undergraduate STEM courses results in increases in understanding of content, improved attitudes, retention in the field, critical-thinking skills, and improved self-efficacy. We have developed a laboratory activity for general chemistry that introduces students to research practices in the context of current environmental research in hopes of engaging students more fully towards improving students’ attitudes and content understanding. This activity is based around the socio-scientific issue of hydraulic fracturing. Students performing this experiment collect data to contribute to an on-going environmental research project that generates a water- and soil- quality database for the local community. The research project seeks to evaluate the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and monitor the health over time of local water supplies. Students performing this laboratory activity engage in cognitively-demanding processes that are absent in “traditional” first-year general chemistry labs, such as experimental design, judgments about data reliability, and construction of scientific arguments and explanations. The activity was piloted at Central Michigan University in Summer 2014 with a group of approximately 48 students before being implemented full-scale with 660 students in Fall 2014. Similar research-based experiences will be incorporated at Saginaw Valley State University (a predominately undergraduate institution) and Delta College (a two-year college) this year. We utilized the administration of surveys in a pre-test/post-test, control/treatment design to assess student impacts. Preliminary observations and results on student impacts from the implementations at Central Michigan University will be discussed in this oral presentation.