The effects of guided inquiry on understanding high school chemistry
McDonnell, Julie Beth
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My project sought to address the problem of passive, unmotivated students who leave labs and class activities still holding on to misconceptions. In this investigation, guided-inquiry labs and class activities were implemented with the purpose of improving student understanding in high school chemistry. Process Oriented Guided-Inquiry activities, guided-inquiry labs, and online investigations were completed during the stoichiometry and gas laws units in two chemistry classes with 57 students. Pre and postunit assessments, pre and postunit student interviews, pre and postintervention student surveys, unit tests, instructor field observations, colleague observations, instructor weekly journaling, and pre and postintervention teacher surveys were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. Overall, students showed increased conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills, with low and middle-achieving students showing the most growth in those areas. While postunit assessments and unit tests did not show measurable improvement in higher order thinking skills following intervention, students demonstrated increased engagement during class activities. Both the students and the teacher also experienced an increase in motivation as a result of the guided- inquiry intervention. The results of this study encourage increased use of guided inquiry in all units of chemistry and the rewriting of existing labs and activities to promote more higher-order thinking and student-directed learning.