Rachel Driscoll - Toward Increasing Student Engagement in the General Chemistry Laboratory with Environmental Research

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      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.

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