Impact of process-oriented guided inquiry learning on chemistry students
Keller, Aaron Adam
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Educating students in science using traditional methods such as lecture and demonstrations is not effective with the majority of students. Alternative methods such as the small-group work method of POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) and inquiry-based laboratory work have been shown to be more effective. In this classroom research study these techniques were employed with students in an effort to improve their understanding of science content. In addition, the reason why traditional methods may be less effective is explored through the lens of the work of Jean Piaget and Anton Lawson. Piaget (1972) enumerated several types of reasoning he collectively called 'formal thought'. This formal reasoning may emerge from concrete reasoning during adolescence. Whether it does or not depends in large part on an individual's experiences. The implications for teaching students who are at a concrete stage of cognitive development were explored through data collected regarding science content comprehension, the use of inquiry-based lab activities, and through interviews with students. Finally, prospects for having a direct impact on students' development of formal reasoning are discussed. The results of this study are that the majority of students in a college-preparatory chemistry classroom are in fact concrete thinkers, they require a specific, learning-cycle approach for effective instruction, and the use of such instruction does not in itself contribute directly to their development of formal reasoning abilities. As a result, the study points toward further work to incorporate elements of explicit instruction in formal reasoning skills. Previous research has demonstrated the value of such instruction both in the science classroom and beyond it and that it is in fact possible to aid most but not all students to attain this level of cognitive development.