Students as co-producers of the curriculum; enhancing student- student engagement?

Reid, L. and Ryan, Barry (2013) Students as co-producers of the curriculum; enhancing student- student engagement? In: 6th Annual Learning Innovation Network Conference – Sustainable Models of Student Engagement – Rhetoric or Achievable? 17th October 2013 in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin., Dublin, Ireland.


This research project was designed and carried out by a fourth year undergraduate student to examine the effectiveness of the traditional expository style chemistry laboratory practical following this a Problem based learning style laboratory practical was designed incorporating feedback obtained from the investigation on the traditional style lab and was executed in a first year undergraduate organic chemistry class, the problem based learning style laboratory was designed around the elements of Process oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL) were the students were presented with the problem of turning an medicinally effective compound into a form which would be more suitable for pharmaceutical use. The students were presented with a series of memos, these memos were designed in line with POGIL to guide the student by means of the process of asking leading questions and providing guidance but no direct answers into designing a methodology to convert the compound salicylic acid into the compound acetyl salicylic acid along with a risk assessment for their methodology. The students then had to carry out the synthesis following their own methodology using the reagents and equipment they requested. The results of this explorative action research revealed that the traditional laboratory was somewhat lacking from a pedagogical standpoint, leaving some doubt as to its role in teaching chemistry. Another survey was conducted after the PBL lab and this showed statistically significant improvements in students confidence in how much they learned from the lab session. The results of these surveys were both qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed. Converting to a PBL lab in this case yielded a variety of benefits including some areas that the traditional method completely neglected, the conversion has an initial high workload for the academic but once the labs are converted the workload in no higher than the traditional method. This suggests that further research should be carried out into improving the pedagogical value of the chemistry laboratory and that the laboratory might not be as inflexible and adaptable to change as once thought.

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