P54: Fostering student interest and promoting deep learning in a laboratory context: A case study in gas laws in first-year chemistry
This presentation will explore two activities used in a first-year university chemistry laboratory, which offer insights into promoting student interest in practice. Tools developed by the Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory (ASELL, formerly ACELL with ‘C’ = Chemistry) project were used to examine both experiments. The presentation will explore how students’ responses, evidenced by the data collected, led to the decision to replace rather than to attempt to renovate the existing exercise. Strengths of the existing design were maintained whilst weaknesses were addressed. This evidence-based laboratory redevelopment has led to significant improvements in every area of the student experience and has resulted in an activity comparable with the most positively evaluated student experience examined using ASELL tools to date. The two experiments both examine the physical properties of gases and both utilize everyday materials, yet we could measure clear differences in the students’ experience. For both activities, the evidence shows that situational interest was triggered and yet success in maintaining it and using the resulting engagement to foster improved understanding was markedly different. The new activity is demonstrably effective in making the ideal gas law more concrete for students, and student understanding is then applied to the challenge of identifying an unknown substance, thereby tangibly demonstrating the utility of their work. The first experiment was rated as very valuable or better by 13.5% of students, whereas the second experiment received this rating from 94.4%. The reasons for these differences are instructive for design of other laboratory activities.