Using Information Processing Theory to Design an Undergraduate Practical Course in Chemistry

Vianna, Jose Francisco (1991) Using Information Processing Theory to Design an Undergraduate Practical Course in Chemistry. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis describes a study of practical work in a first year undergraduate laboratory. In a conventional laboratory course, there are many variables that influence the students' learning. These include the recall of theoretical concepts and acquired skills, learning of new concepts and skills, following and interpreting the experimental procedures, making observations, and the organisation of the laboratory. To all this is added the data and information generated by the experiment. Under these conditions there is a possibility of overloading students' working memory leading them to follow the experimental procedures with little or no understanding of what they are doing or why. This survey, spread over a period of three years (1988-90) and five different laboratory courses, was formulated and developed within the context of Information Processing Theory. In the FIRST YEAR (1988) a diagnostic study was done with the purpose of identifying the various factors which lead students to a state of working memory overload affecting the efficiency of learning. In the SECOND YEAR (1989) four versions of laboratory course were designed with one change of variable in each. The variables selected for control were: the nature of the written instructions, the method of teaching manipulative skills, the use of a Prelab exercise, and the use of Mini-Projects. Written Instruction and Laboratory Techniques Session were designed to reduce the number of information to be processed by the students at once. This was intended to allow the students to use their potential working memory space for processing the information gathered from the experiments. The Prelab Work was introduced to improve the students' perception of the tasks by building upon existing understanding and making it ready available for recall (meaningful learning). Once the techniques and experimental content are mastered, students are free to use all their working memory space to solve practical problems (Mini-Projects). The students are not given a "recipe" or instruction to follow -and so they must think for themselves within the context of knowledge and understanding they have already mastered. In the THIRD YEAR (1990) the fifth version of the laboratory course was designed with four stages which gradually introduced to the students in the following sequence: Firstly the laboratory techniques training; secondly the pre-laboratory exercise; thirdly close-ended experiments; and finally the Mini-Projects. Recommendations and suggestions for further work have been proposed to extend this piece of research in order to improve practical work in chemistry in general.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Science education, Higher education
Date of Award: 1991
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1991-78350
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2020 12:09
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2020 12:09

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