Session S40 (Tuesday, 9:30am, Thomas 215)

P382: The necessity of introductory chemistry labs: A cognitive argument

George Long (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA)

Recently, questions regarding the importance of lab in introductory chemistry courses have arisen, driven by the lack of direct evidence that these introductory labs help students learn chemistry. Often, traditional studies show no significant difference in tests of information, practical application, and often even attitude.  While it is generally accepted that chemists need to be trained in the use of laboratory equipment, and laboratory practice, it is argued that these can be left to upper division courses, where precious resources are only used for those students who require this specific training. However, historically, most chemistry teachers have valued labs, albeit often intuitively. Given the counter intuitive result, it is thus worth considering if the conventional quantitative methods used miss some important aspects of learning.  This presentation will discuss the use of qualitative evidence to look for unique cognitive aspects of learning in the laboratory, including the “knowledge as action” aspects of introductory labs, and will argue that the laboratory context provides an essential grounding of the concepts being studied.


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