Flipping for Deeper Learning in the Chemistry Lab
Thursday, 02 March 2017
by A/P YAN YAW KAI Natural Sciences and Science Education
"It was useful to watch the videos before attempting the practical. I was surer of the procedure,and could perform the experiment quickly.This freed up more time to ask my tutor about deeper questions regarding the experiment. I learn better, and do faster." - Chua Jia Xun,BSc(Ed) Intake 2014, AS2 Chemistry
Ideally, experiments are used to reinforce theoretical concepts and expose students to important experimental techniques in Chemistry. In reality, these goals are usually poorly achieved.
The traditional first-year university Chemistry practical requires students to conduct cookbook style experiments, that is, to follow detailed instructions in a lab manual to perform prescribed experiments and gather the required data. Students then leave the laboratory and write a report in which they analyse and interpret the data, and answer a few questions relating to the experiment.
Due to limitations in class time, demonstration and explanation of the experimental procedures tend to be rushed, and students often start experiments without properly understanding the techniques and their theoretical bases. Students also have difficulty completing the experiments and do not have time to analyse the results in the laboratory. They end up interpreting the data and formulating hypotheses to explain their observations, outside the laboratory. Since students have no opportunity to test their hypotheses and refine them, they generally end up finding standard answers from the internet to complete their lab reports.
To improve student teachers' learning in Chemistry practicals in NIE, a flipped laboratory approach was adopted in a first-year Inorganic Chemistry course In the B.Sc(Ed) programme conducted by Associate Professor (A/P) Yan Yaw Kai, Head of the Natural Sciences and Science Education (NSSE) Academic Group. In this approach,student teachers view a detailed video demonstration of the experimental procedure (produced in-house) prior to the laboratory session, and think through the relevant theoretical concepts with the help of some scaffold questions. The student teachers submit their answers a day before the laboratory session to A/P Yan, who then facilitates a discussion of the answers before the start of the experiment during the actual session itself.
With this approach, student teachers come to the laboratory session much better prepared. They are able to perform the experiment with a deeper understanding of its logic and rationale, make fewer mistakes during the experiment, and are able to troubleshoot more independently.Student teachers are also able to complete their experiments more quickly, leaving time for authentic learning opportunities wherein they work collaboratively to formulate hypotheses to explain their observations, and carry out investigations to test their hypotheses.