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The Effect of Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs on Student Engagement

by

Kelly Beck

A paper submitted in partial fulfillment


of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Education

at

Carroll University Waukesha, Wisconsin

May 2012

A paper entitled

THE EFFECT OF GUIDED-INQUIRY CHEMISTRY LABS


ON STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

submitted to the Carroll University Library in


partial fulfillment of the expectations
and academic requirements of the
degree of Master of Education

by

Kelly Beck

Date

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Date

TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTSi
ABSTRACT...iii
LIST OF TABLES.iv
LIST OF FIGURESv
SECTION ONE: INTRODUCTION..1
Statement of the Problem1
Background.1
Purpose and Rationale.2
Significance of the Study2
Research Question...3
Definition of Terms..4
Limitations...7
Overview of Chapters..8
SECTION TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW.10
Rationale for Using Guided-Inquiry Laboratory Instruction.10
Overview of Guided-Inquiry Instruction...12
The Pros and Cons of Guided-Inquiry Instruction.15
Factors that Affect Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Labs.18
SECTION THREE: METHODOLOGY...21
Research Design.21
Participants.23
Research Instrumentation...23
Research Procedures..24
SECTION FOUR: DATA ANALYSIS.27
Findings.27
Finding the Appropriate Level of Difficulty.28
Increased Level of Motivation and Confidence32
Increased Level of Critical Thinking.35
Increased Level of Student Ownership of Scientific Investigations..38
SECTION FIVE: CONCLUSION.....42

ii

Recommendations.42
Questions for Further Study..44
Implementations for the Field45
Closing Remarks47
REFERENCES.48
APPENDICES..52
Appendix A: Pre-Study and Post-Study Questionnaire.52
Appendix B: Data Collection Form.......54
Appendix C: Post-Study Free Response Section...56
Appendix D: Lab 1 Double Replacement Reactions.57
Appendix E: Lab 2 Mole Ratios in Compounds58
Appendix F: Lab 3 Mole Airlines Crash Investigation..59
Appendix G: Lab 4 Decomposition of Baking Soda.60
Appendix H: Lab 5 Limiting Reagents POGIL.61
Appendix I: Lab 6 2.00 Gram Stoichiometry Lab.65
Appendix J: Research Consent Form.66

iii

ABSTRACT

The Effect of Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs on Student Engagement


by
Kelly Beck

Carroll University, 2012


Under the Supervision of Dr. Jennifer Maney and Rebecca Anderson

The purpose of this study is to determine the level of student engagement in guidedinquiry chemistry labs. This study was based on research designed to measure the level
of student engagement in an undergraduate level science course (Apedoe, 2007). The
triangulation employed includes pre-study and post-study questionnaires, observations of
student engagement levels and student questions during the lab, and field notes. When
analyzing the data sources, high levels of student engagement were confirmed, and four
significant themes emerged. The theme of finding the appropriate level of difficulty
indicates that teacher intervention may be needed to maintain high levels of student
engagement. The themes of increased motivation and confidence, increased critical
thinking, and increased student ownership all provide evidence that student engagement
levels are high during guided-inquiry lab activities. Evidence shows that using guidedinquiry lab activities is an effective teaching method to increase student engagement.

iv

LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE 1: Average Level of Student Engagement of Research Subjects During
Guided-Inquiry Lab Activities29
FIGURE 2: Frequency of Student Questions Asked During Guided-Inquiry
Lab Activities.34
FIGURE 3: Frequency and Types of Student Questions Asked During Guided-Inquiry
Lab Activities.36
FIGURE 4: Student Responses to Pre-Study and Post-Study Questionnaire to Determine
the Level of Scientific Inquiry Experienced During Lab Activities..38

LIST OF TABLES
TABLE 1: Average Engagement Levels for Students with Different Academic
Performance Levels.30
TABLE 2: Average Student Engagement Levels During Guided-Inquiry Chemistry
Labs..33
TABLE 3: Student Responses to Pre-Study and Post-Study Questionnaire to Determine
the Level of Scientific Inquiry Experienced During Lab Activities40

SECTION ONE: INTRODUCTION


Statement of the Problem
For the past four years I have taught chemistry and have observed hundreds of
students participating in laboratory activities in my classroom. The laboratory activities I
used primarily in the first two years of teaching could be characterized as traditional
cookbook style labs, in which the students follow a step-by-step lab procedure to
produce expected results, which verify a phenomenon they have already learned or been
introduced to in class. I struggled to get all students engaged in lab; often only one lab
partner would actively participate. In the next two years I began to use more inquirybased labs, in which the students were responsible for designing some or all of the
procedure and interpreting the results more independently. As a result of this change, I
noticed several positive outcomes. I spent significantly less time on classroom
management when students performed inquiry-based labs. I also noticed a more equal
level of contribution from each lab partner. Students seemed to enjoy the inquiry labs
more than the verification labs as well.
Background
According to Akkus et al. (2007), high-quality implementation of the Science Writing
Heuristic, a guided-inquiry approach to lab activities, resulted in low-achieving students
significantly outperforming similar students in a traditional science classroom. This
shows that low-achieving science students benefit by closing the achievement gap
through guided-inquiry instruction (Akkus et al., 2007). In addition, a study by Blanchard
et al. (2010) showed that students in guided-inquiry based instruction classrooms
outscore students in traditional verification classrooms and show stronger growth in

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 2

scores (p. 606). These are just two examples of many recent studies that indicate that
guided-inquiry instruction is an effective teaching strategy to increase student
achievement. Despite the abundance of studies that show increased academic success,
few studies have reported on the effectiveness of increasing student engagement in the
science classroom. A study by X. Apedoe (2007) indicated that there are challenges to
inquiry-based learning, and future research could examine and report on behaviors of
students who are less successful at appropriating and engaging in inquiry activities (p.
659). This study provided evidence of student behaviors of first-year chemistry students
engaging in guided-inquiry labs.
Purpose and Rationale
The purpose of this study is to determine the level of student engagement in guidedinquiry chemistry labs. Based on my teaching experiences, I accumulated some empirical
evidence that guided-inquiry labs were more engaging than traditional verification labs.
This action research project would allow me to quantify and classify the level of student
engagement during lab activities. These results would help me determine if guidedinquiry labs were indeed a best practice for my chemistry classes and would validate my
instructional practices.
Significance of the Study
Previous research on guided-inquiry labs in chemistry has primarily focused on
academic success and the level of comfort in the learning process. The only previous
research on the topic of student engagement during guided-inquiry labs was conducted by
Apedoe (2007) for an upper-level undergraduate geology course at a large research
university the southeastern United States. My study has a different test group, high school

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 3

students in a chemistry course, and so may present a different outcome. Evidence that
supports the benefits of guided-inquiry learning other than academic success in the high
school setting is currently lacking. This study is significant due to the recent drive to
incorporate guided-inquiry into high school science curricula (National Resource
Council, 2000). The CollegeBoard program is dramatically changing the curricula and
assessment expectations to integrate inquiry learning into all AP Science courses. The
revisions to the AP Chemistry framework will be in place by the 2013-2014 school year,
indicating a rapid change is needed in first-year chemistry programs to adequately
prepare students for inquiry learning at the AP level. According the AP Central (2011),
the Science Practice Standards established by the CollegeBoard include the following:
Science Practice 1: The student can use representations and models to
communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems.
Science Practice 2: The student can use mathematics appropriately.
Science Practice 3: The student can engage in scientific questioning to extend
thinking or to guide investigations within the context of the AP course.
Science Practice 4: The student can plan and implement data collection strategies
in relation to a particular scientific question.
Science Practice 5: The student can perform data analysis and evaluation of
evidence.
Science Practice 6: The student can work with scientific explanations and
theories.
Science Practice 7: The student is able to connect and relate knowledge across
various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 4

Science Practice Standards #3-7 emphasize scientific inquiry in the classroom. To


claim that guided-inquiry lab instruction is a best practice for the chemistry classroom,
evidence must show this is an effective method measured in multiple ways (academic
performance, retention time, engagement levels, etc.) This study aims to investigate
student engagement levels as a part of this comprehensive analysis.
Research Question
In the past, most chemistry courses have relied on traditional verification labs. These
lab activities have instructions that are similar to a cookbook recipe that students must
carefully read and follow to obtain the correct results. Each student is expected to get the
same result at the conclusion of the procedure, and these results are often discussed prior
to the lab activity. Therefore, students are asked to verify the expected results. While
students can gain valuable experiences using new lab equipment or procedures through
these verification labs, they do not gain experience with critical thinking, problem
solving, and using the scientific method. As a result, other types of lab activities must be
incorporated to address these deficiencies of traditional verification labs. Furthermore, I
have observed many more concerns with classroom management and off-task behavior
during verification labs in comparison to guided-inquiry labs. An increased level of
student engagement serves as an indicator that students are participating in problem
solving, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. This study assesses the level of student
engagement during guided-inquiry labs. The specific research question addressed is
How do guided-inquiry labs affect the level of student engagement in chemistry
classes?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 5

Definition of Terms
Science Writing Heuristic (SWH)
The Science Writing Heuristic, SWH, is a teaching method used for guided-inquiry
laboratory activities. It is also the term used to describe the format for the lab reports
completed during the guided-inquiry lab activity. A beginning question or problem to
solve is provided, and then students work collaboratively to design and conduct a lab
procedure to answer the beginning question or solve the problem. Students must
determine what data to collect, how to collect the data, and how to analyze the collected
data. Students have background knowledge regarding the problem they will be solving,
and work together to apply this knowledge in the lab setting. The teacher facilitates the
collaborative process. The SWH lab reports used in this study follow this format:
1. Beginning ideas: Brainstorm your thoughts and questions for this lab.
2. Tests: What safety do we need to consider for this lab? Write a clear, step-by-step,
numbered procedure that a chemistry student from another class could follow.
3. Observations: Use your senses to write detailed observations in an organized data
table. Include a title, headings, and units as needed.
4. Claims: What can I claim?
5. Evidence: Why am I making these claims? Explain using evidence from your data.
6. Reading: How do my ideas compare to ideas proposed by others?
7. Writing: What is the best explanation that clarifies what I have learned?
8. Reflection: What was a strength of my groups performance with this activity?
What is an area for improvement? What questions (at least TWO) do I have about
this lesson / activity?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 6

Process-Oriented Guided-Inquiry Learning (POGIL)


Process-Oriented Guided-inquiry Learning, POGIL, is a guided-inquiry teaching
method designed to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and
communication (The POGIL Project, 2012). Students typically work in groups of four
and each is assigned a role (reader, pacer, traveler, and clarifier). Students are given data
or information followed by questions designed to guide them to construct their own valid
conclusions of scientific theories, trends, relationships, etc. The teacher facilitates the
group work processes.
Scientific Inquiry
Most recently, in 2005 the National Research Council published Americas Lab Report:
Investigations in High School Science, which described the five principles of scientific
inquiry as 1) framing research questions, 2) designing investigations, 3) conducting
investigations, 4) collecting data, and 5) drawing conclusions (Campbell, 2010). The
National Resource Council (1996) defines inquiry as:
a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions;
examining books and other sources of information to see what is already known;
planning investigations; reviewing what is already known in light of experimental
evidence; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers,
explanations, and predictions; and communicating the results. (p. 23)
Traditional Verification Labs
Traditional verification labs, also called cookbook labs or level 0 inquiry, are
commonly used in introductory chemistry courses as the lab instructional method. The
teacher provides the student with a question to answer and a detailed procedure designed

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 7

to answer the question. Students are typically provided with the data tables required to
collect all pertinent data. Students are sometimes aware of the expected outcome (level 0
inquiry) and are completing the lab activity to confirm the anticipated result. Other times
students are unaware of the expected outcome (level 1 inquiry), but the teacher ensures
that students arrive at the desired outcome. All students are expected to reach the same
conclusion, and the teacher helps them interpret and understand the importance of their
results.
Guided-Inquiry
With guided-inquiry, or level 2 inquiry, the teacher provides the research question, but
students must work collaboratively to design a procedure to answer the research question,
conduct the investigation, and interpret the results. The teacher facilitates this
collaborative experience but allows students to discuss, debate, and determine the method
of investigation independently. This is different from structured (level 1) inquiry, when
students are provided with a question and a method but are responsible for the
interpretation of the result and from open (level 3) inquiry, when students generate the
question to research, determine data collection methods, and interpret their results,
therefore taking responsibility for all major aspects of the investigation (Blanchard,
2010, p. 581).
Limitations
There are several limitations to the study design. Based on my experiences with both
traditional and guided-inquiry lab activities, I have developed a preference for guidedinquiry labs. Although I was not comparing the level of engagement with traditional and
guided-inquiry labs, my bias for guided-inquiry labs may have influenced my perceptions

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 8

of student engagement levels. This would not have influenced all of my data collection
methods, but could have skewed my field notes. In addition, I chose a scale of 1 to 5 to
describe the level of student engagement. This is a subjective scale, and I did not
calibrate my scoring with any other researcher before conducting the study. My study
group of regular-level, first-year chemistry students included a wide range of ability, but
did not include the students in the honors-level, first-year chemistry course. The honorslevel students have different motivation levels and abilities that may have provided
significantly different results. Finally, I had a small study group, approximately 40
students, and the study was conducted over a period of several months with no side-byside comparison with a class using traditional verification labs. The study results would
be stronger with a larger test group, a longer time frame, and a side-by-side comparison
with a traditional verification lab study group.
Overview of Sections
Section Two is a review of previous research on guided-inquiry instruction in the
science classroom. It begins with the rationale for using guided-inquiry instruction and an
overview of guided-inquiry instructional methods. Next, the section details the pros and
cons of guided-inquiry instruction and the factors that affect student engagement in the
science classroom. The literature review concludes with an overview of the importance of
scaffolding, teacher questioning, student questioning, and student reflections for effective
guided-inquiry instruction.
Section Three describes the methodology used for the action research project. It
provides an overview of the research design and provides details on the study

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 9

participants, instrumentation, and procedures for analyzing student engagement during


guided-inquiry lab activities.
Section Four reports the findings of this study. Four themes that emerged from the
study are discussed: finding the appropriate level of challenge, increased level of
motivation and confidence, increased level of critical thinking, and increased level of
student ownership in scientific investigations. Qualitative and quantitative data are
analyzed and interpreted.
Section Five presents the researchers conclusions and the implications of the results.
Recommendations for further study are made, and recommendations for implementing
inquiry-based instruction in the chemistry classroom are given.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 10

SECTION TWO: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE


As a result of my classroom observations of student engagement during chemistry
labs, I began to research the literature to find documented differences between the
effectiveness of traditional verification labs and inquiry-based labs. In the following
literature review, I will give examples of these differences and offer evidence in support
of using guided-inquiry labs. I will give an overview of and the pros and cons of using
guided-inquiry instruction. Finally, I will describe factors used in guided-inquiry
instruction that affect student engagement. My specific action research question is How
do guided-inquiry labs affect the level of student engagement in chemistry classes?
Rationale for Using Guided-Inquiry Laboratory Instruction
Science instruction in the past has typically focused on content knowledge. Chemistry
lab activities were primarily cookbook style labs intended to verify the content
knowledge learned in lecture. For example, students may learn in lecture that by adding
an ionic compound such as sodium chloride to water, the freezing point of water will be
lowered. A traditional chemistry lab activity may ask a student to prepare such a solution
and observe the lowered freezing point after learning the concept in class. The
instructions would be detailed and chronological, leaving little independent thinking for
the lab student. Students are simply expected to follow the procedure and collect the data
requested in the lab manual. Afterwards, it is typical for the instructor to discuss the
expected lab results and the relationship to the content already learned in class. In this
traditional laboratory format, students learn laboratory techniques but are less likely to
understand what they have done and why they have done it. A more effective laboratory
teaching method is needed to maximize student learning.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 11

Inquiry-based learning requires students to apply background knowledge and use


critical thinking to investigate a scientific phenomenon that has not yet been introduced
in class (Farrell & Moog, 1999). A successful inquiry-based learning environment has
students a) ask scientific questions, b) collect evidence, c) develop explanations to answer
their questions, d) evaluate their explanations compared to others, and e) communicate
their explanations (Apedoe, 2007). Hume (2009) reports that problem-solving
opportunities must ask students to draw on background knowledge of science knowledge,
make an action plan, conduct the experiment, collect data, interpret, evaluate, and
communicate findings.
Inquiry-based laboratory instruction varies in respect to student and teacher
responsibilities. In an open inquiry lab (level 3 inquiry method), students take
responsibility for developing a research question, data collection methods, and
interpreting their results (Blanchard et al., 2010). In a more structured approach, guided
inquiry labs (level 2) include a research question, but the student is responsible for data
collection methods and interpreting results (Blanchard et al., 2010). In contrast, a student
completing a traditional verification lab (level 0) is not responsible for any of those
tasksthe teacher would provide all of the structure instead. In an inquiry lab, the
teacher serves as a facilitator, prompting students with guiding questions but providing
few answers. Students working in small groups use peer review to validate their results
instead of asking the teacher how to get the right answer (Peters, 2010).
In the past fifteen years there have been several national directives towards inquirybased science instruction. The National Science Education Standards, published in 1996,
include Teacher Standard A: Teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 12

for their students (p.3). In 2000, the National Resource Council published inquiry
standards and found that a pattern of general support for inquiry-based teaching
continues to emerge from the research (p. 126). Most recently, in 2005 the National
Resource Council published Americas Lab Report: Investigations in High School
Science, which described the five principles of scientific inquiry as a) framing research
questions, b) designing investigations, c) conducting investigations, d) collecting data,
and e) drawing conclusions (Campbell, 2010).
In addition to national mandates for inquiry-based science education, an increasing
volume of literature has been published regarding student achievement with inquirybased instruction. In 1999 Farrell, Moog, and Spencer reported that students in a guidedinquiry general chemistry course at Franklin and Marshall College had a 2.3%
withdrawal rate and a 0.23% failure rate compared to a 9.3% withdrawal rate and a 3.6%
failure rate with the same professors using traditional teaching methods. Hanson and
Wolfskill reported an increase in discussion session attendance from 10-20% to 80-90%
when a guided-inquiry approach was utilized in a college level general chemistry course
(2000). At the middle and high school level, high quality implementation of the Science
Writing Heuristic, an example of a guided-inquiry lab method, significantly raised
student performance and closed the achievement gap between high and low achieving
students (Akkus et al., 2007). In another middle and high school level study, students
completing guided-inquiry laboratory activities had greater gains in content knowledge
and long-term retention of the material than with traditional laboratory methods
(Blanchard et al., 2010).

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 13

Overview of Guided-Inquiry Instruction


Guided-inquiry lab instruction lends itself to a constructivist, student-centered
learning environment. A specific form of guided-inquiry lab instruction called the
Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) guides students to collaboratively design labs and
develop conceptual understanding through the lab exercise (Burke et al., 2006). SWH
encourages students to generate questions, claims, and evidence for making an argument
based on valid reasoning (Akkus et al., 2007). A SWH lab activity begins with a direct
discussion regarding safety requirements or new lab techniques. Next, the teacher
facilitates a group discussion to brainstorm how to connect background knowledge to the
question to be tested in lab (sometimes the students determine their own research
question; sometimes the question is provided). Examples of questions that encourage
student critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are provided by de Jesus et al. (2005,
p. 183):

What are we going to find out?

What do we already know about this?

What do we think will happen?

What equipment will we need?

What will make it a fair test?

What have I found out I did not know before?

After the brainstorm session, students work in small groups to determine an


experimental procedure and data collection methods appropriate to answer the research
question. The teacher is responsible for checking the procedure for safety and general
efficiencies but should provide minimal input in their lab. Instead, students are

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 14

encouraged to collaborate and conduct peer review throughout the activity. After
conducting their investigation, students pool data as needed and analyze the data to make
a claimthis may be a discovered pattern, relationship, generalization, or explanation
for the research question (Burke et al., 2006). Students must use scientific evidence and
reasoning to support the claim. The evidence is scientific data that support the claim
and the reasoning includes scientific principles the student applied to the situation and
the logic behind that application (McNeill, 2008, p. 236). Finally, students reflect on
their learning and experience which helps make connections between lecture, lab, and the
real world.
Chemistry students record their lab work in a scientific journal. The guided-inquiry
approach requires students to learn how to organize the material chronologically in the
procedure and to prepare data tables and charts, which will allow their evidence to be
used appropriately to support their claim. The Science Writing Heuristic includes the
following categories for a lab report template (Poock et al., 2007, p. 1372):
1. Beginning ideas: What are my questions?
2. Tests: What did I do? How did I stay safe?
3. Observations: What did I see?
4. Claims: What can I claim?
5. Evidence: How do I know? Why am I making these claims?
6. Reading: How do my ideas compare to ideas proposed by others?
7. Reflection: How have my ideas changed?
8. Writing: What is the best explanation that clarifies what I have learned?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 15

Reflective journal writing can also be used to increase engagement following the lab
activity (Towndrow et al., 2008). To maximize effectiveness, teachers must guide their
students by providing specific reflection questions or topics. An example of a reflective
journal writing assignment described in the study by Towndrow et al. (2008) asks the
students to respond to the following headings: Questions I have about todays lesson;
something I have learned today; and some thought-provoking incident in class today (p.
280).
During guided-inquiry labs, student responsibilities include working collaboratively in
both small and large groups, managing time, problem-solving, designing and conducting
the experimental procedure, analyzing results, and making conclusions. Teachers are
responsible for providing minimal guidance, monitoring for safety, and engaging students
in discussion about their experiment. It is important that teachers do not answer too many
questions, but rather facilitate the learning process by asking students thought-provoking
questions. Teachers should not tell students if they are right or wrong because an
inquiry lab usually does not have a single correct result. After the lab, the teacher may
facilitate a discussion to explain observations and make connections with content
knowledge. In a 2006 study by Jalil, students showed a preference regarding their
understanding, enjoyment, and sense of accomplishment if the instructor did not
thoroughly explain the methodology and results until after students completed the lab.
The Pros and Cons of Guided-Inquiry Instruction
The pros and cons of guided-inquiry instruction can be both perceived and real. First,
although many teachers are enthusiastic about student-centered learning, there is a great
need for professional development to train teachers in these constructivist methodologies.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 16

Many teachers experienced only traditional lab instruction and have no previous
experience as a student or teacher with guided-inquiry instruction. Recent studies have
shown that the degree of fidelity to and competence with the teaching method is critical
in determining student performance (Akkus et al., 2007, Blanchard et al., 2010, Poock et
al., 2007). Not only do teachers need preparationmany students also have little or no
experience with guided-inquiry labs and need to build teamwork, critical thinking, and
problem-solving skills to be successful (Peters, 2010). Peters continues to assert that
students who do not have prior experience with student-centered methods are illequipped to perform scientific inquiry (2010, p.332). Gallagher-Bolos and Smithenry
(2004) suggest a scaffolding approach at the beginning of the school year to guide
students to become confident with the guided-inquiry process. In another study, a middle
school life science teacher provided a balance between structure and freedom as a way to
increase student success (Peters, 2010).
Another reason for teacher reluctance to conduct guided-inquiry labs is a perceived
lack of control of the classroom (Gormally, 2011). This occurs because there may be
several variations of experimental procedures being conducted at the same time, and
some groups may be more efficient, working faster and finishing before other groups.
Certainly an adjustment period and professional development opportunities are needed
for teachers to become comfortable with the apparent randomness of the lab. Although it
may seem random or chaotic at first glance, a college-level instructor reported that
behind the scenes, the activity was tightly structured in order to predict student needs
and challenges during a guided-inquiry lab period (Boyce and Singh, 2008, p.1635). In
contrast, students may fear being in control and may be unaccustomed to solving open-

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 17

ended problems without teacher validation (Deters, 2005). This discomfort seems to fade,
however, after several labs when students begin to have increased interest while
experiencing a sense of accomplishment (Deters, 2005; Jalil, 2006). Scaffolding also
prepares the student for increased levels of responsibility to make this adjustment period
smoother.
Regardless of the adjustment period, students will likely experience confusion and
failure at some points of the year when conducting guided-inquiry labs. Giving students a
chance to deal with failure in a safe environment is valuable as well. Students learn that
the scientific process is not always predictable, procedures dont always work, and
revisions of lab procedures are often needed (Deters, 2005). To overcome these hurdles,
students develop increased communication skills, self-confidence, logic and reasoning
abilities, and the ability to correct or explain mistakes (Deters, 2005). These new skills,
coupled with increased academic performance in class, show the value of guided-inquiry
labs.
There are several other perceived disadvantages of guided-inquiry instruction as
viewed by teachers. One concern is safetysome teachers do not feel comfortable with
the open structure of the lab if there are lab hazards such as using equipment improperly,
mixing chemicals improperly, etc. This concern can be addressed in several ways. First, a
pre-laboratory discussion should address relevant safety instructions and specific
laboratory techniques (Burke et al., 2006). Since it is not open inquiry, the teacher can
tailor the research question to address these safety concerns. In addition, the teacher can
require students to have their procedure approved prior to experimenting; without a plan,
they are not allowed to participate (Deckert et al., 1998). Other concerns include the

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 18

increased amount of class time required for the lab and the increased amount of time to
grade the lab reports. If more class time for lab is needed, teachers are concerned they
will need to sacrifice course content. However, with more students actively engaging in
their learning, less review of the material is needed because students make connections
during class (Jones-Wilson, 2005). Lab reports can be tedious to grade, but if a grading
rubric is established or only one report is collected per group, the grading time can be
reduced significantly.
Student and teacher responses to participating guided-inquiry labs have been very
positive. In a college-level chemistry lab course, instructors responded that students were
more prepared, discussed the experiment during lab more, and worked collaboratively to
answer questions (Deckert et al., 1998). The instructors found that this peer teaching
was perhaps the most exciting consequence of the reform (Deckert et al., 1998, p. 861).
Students who used the Science Writing Heuristic as the guided-inquiry method in an
introductory level chemistry course had significantly higher semester grades with
instructors who fully implemented the teaching method than with instructors who used
traditional teaching methods (Akkus et al., 2007; Murphy et al., 2010; Poock et al.,
2007). In a study with a high school chemistry class, a student reported I have a better
understanding of why certain steps are taken than if I was told exactly what I needed to
do and another said doing inquiry-based labs gives me a sense of accomplishment
(Deters, 2005, pp. 1179-1180).
Factors that Affect Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Labs
According to Apedoe (2007), the perceived lack of guidance from the [teaching
assistant] emerged as the most significant challenge to engaging in inquiry (p. 658).

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 19

Scaffolding is essential for student achievement in a guided-inquiry laboratory. To


increase student engagement, careful planning must be done to ensure students transition
from structured learning to independent learning successfully. When students have
learned to function productively in an inquiry environment, several factors can be
monitored to assess levels of student engagement in the lab. These factors include
student-teacher interactions, peer interactions, student journal entries, student reflections,
and other assessments. Woven throughout each factor is the opportunity to observe the
types of questions asked by the teacher and student both written and verbally.
Teacher-directed questions should ask students to engage in higher-order thinking,
such as analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information. Tienken et al. (2010)
suggest that teachers should plan to ask 10-15 higher-order thinking questions per lesson
in order to stimulate productive thought. Teachers can ask guiding questions to facilitate
learning instead of providing direct instruction in lab. In addition, teachers can gauge
understanding by asking probing questions as they circulate the classroom. Teacher
questions are very important to maintaining an inquiry atmosphere rather than a
traditional, direct teaching atmosphere.
Students will also be asking questions and reflecting as they participate in lab
activities. Questions are essential to scientific learning; Middlecamp and Nickel (2005)
argue that those who teach chemistry should pay attention to helping students learn to
ask questions as well as helping them learn to answer them (p.1181). These questions
and reflections tend to be categorized as serving a particular function for each phase in
the activity:

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 20

1. team organization
2. accumulation of ideas
3. divergence of ideas
4. structure and production
5. writing
6. oral presentations
7. assessment and evaluation of the overall process (de Jesus et al., 2005, p.185).
In a 2007 study, Apedoe characterized the types of questions asked by students as
clarification of knowledge, clarification of observation, prediction, or building on
knowledge. By identifying the types and frequency of student questions being asked,
teachers can evaluate what components of the guided-inquiry lab are successful and what
needs to be improved. Teachers can prompt students to ask questions through reflective
journal writing assignments and address those individual questions in future lessons
(Towndrow et al, 2008). Inquiry-based labs encourage students to ask their peers for help
and to ask self-reflecting questions. To support peer questioning, students should be
working in small groups of two to four students during the lab and post-lab discussion in
the classroom. These small groups then should be encouraged to share out to the entire
class as needed. In a study by Peters (2010), students reported feeling more confident
about the quality of their information when a large number of students heard their ideas
and responded to them (p. 342).
Student reflections also enhance student engagement in learning chemistry.
Reflections on learning in guided-inquiry labs can be accomplished in student journals
and collected to formatively assess students after the lab. When students are required to

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 21

write consistently about their observations, claims, evidence, and reasoning, they increase
their ability to explain scientific concepts (Rudd et al., 2007). Besides student journals,
reflections can be included in other forms of assessment such as a portfolio. Boyce and
Singh (2008) give an example of the possible components included in a chemistry
portfolio in an inquiry-based class (p.1634):
1. A summary of the outcomes and learning
2. A laboratory report
3. Evidence of self-directed learning (minimum of three examples)
4. Examples of shared learning resources (students posted a minimum of two items on
a course management system Web site)
5. A reflective log that details a before and after analysis of the students learning
experience.
The literature strongly suggests that guided-inquiry labs provide many benefits to
students such as increased academic achievement, critical thinking, problem-solving
skills, self-confidence, and communication skills. Many studies have found this method
of teaching to be superior to traditional verification laboratory methods. Although there
are both perceived and real concerns about using guided-inquiry methods, the advantages
significantly outweigh the disadvantages. Students will gain more content knowledge and
real world skills despite the challenges they will encounter. In order to track student
engagement, several factors can be analyzed including student-teacher interactions, peer
interactions, student journal entries, student reflections, and other assessments. The
frequency and types of questions asked by students can be analyzed to determine the
level of engagement in guided-inquiry chemistry labs. I will investigate how these

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 22

student questions and interactions can be analyzed to measure the effectiveness of using
guided-inquiry labs to increase student engagement.
SECTION THREE: METHODOLOGY
Research Design
How do guided-inquiry labs affect the level of student engagement in chemistry
classes? This study was designed to measure the level of student engagement when
students participate in guided-inquiry lab activities. To prepare students for a guidedinquiry lab design, Gallagher-Bolos and Smithenry (2004) suggested scaffolding as a way
to shift from a structured, teacher-directed lab experience to a student-directed guidedinquiry lab. In the months of September and October, students participated in lab
activities that required increasing levels of student responsibility. For example, in one
activity student leaders were chosen to facilitate discussion to develop a laboratory
procedure. This was challenging for the students, and afterwards we debriefed the
activity, discussed improvements for next time, and set class expectations for behavior
and participation. The next time student leaders were chosen the classes were more
comfortable with the process and were more successful. This scaffolding prepared the
students to participate in the guided-inquiry lab activities when the action research project
was implemented, from November 3, 2011 to January 13, 2012.
Six guided-inquiry lab activities were included in the study (Appendices D to I), and
each activity took two class periods to complete. Pre- and post-study student surveys
were conducted at the beginning and end of the study period. Field notes were recorded
for each activity, and data were collected when I was not required to be directly

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 23

facilitating the lab by discussing safety, use of lab apparatus, etc. This resulted in a total
of approximately three hours and forty minutes of field data observations.
Participants
The participants of this study consisted of 40 students ages 15 to 18 enrolled in the
first-year chemistry course at a public high school in southeast Wisconsin. The school is
in a suburban setting in Waukesha County with approximately 1500 students. The school
community is very homogenous, with approximately 4% minorities (0.4% American
Indian, 0.8% Asian, 0.9% black, and 1.9% hispanic). The school population consists of
10.5% of students with disabilities, 4.4% of the students are eligible for free/reduced
lunch, and 0.3% of students are ELL (Spanish). Students are required to take three
science credits to graduate, and the students enrolled in this course are typically mixedability, college-bound sophomores and juniors. There is also a first-year honors level
chemistry course offered at the school, which attracts the students who typically have a
higher ability and motivation level. As a result, the research participants have not been
recommended or have not elected to take the honors level chemistry course.
Research Instrumentation
For this research project, several methods of data collection were employed to ensure
the validity, reliability, and generalizability of the project (Mills, 2007). Validity
indicates that the data collected accurately measures what is intended to be measured, in
this case, the level of student engagement. Reliability indicates that the study consistently
measures the level of student engagement. Finally, generalizability indicates that the
study is applicable to other science courses, whether it is the middle school or university
level or whether it is biology, physics, or another science course (Mills, 2007). The

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 24

triangulation employed in this study includes pre- and post-study questionnaires,


observations of student engagement levels and student questions during the lab, and field
notes.
Students took a pre- and post-study questionnaire designed to investigate the extent to
which student experiences in science classrooms are facilitated through principles of
scientific inquiry. During the study students participated in guided-inquiry chemistry
labs. Students were provided with a beginning question or problem to solve, and then
students were expected to determine a procedure to collect data as a whole class or in
small groups. The students then analyzed data from the lab to make individual
conclusions regarding the beginning question or problem. Students completed lab reports
in their notebooks to record their procedure, observations, data analyses, conclusions, and
reflections. As students participated in the lab activity, observations were made of the
student questions asked during the activity. The questions were counted and classified in
different categories. Six students in each class were observed for their levels of
engagement during the lab activity at five minute intervals. In addition to the data
collection described above, field notes were recorded immediately following each lab
activity to document additional observations and insights not collected elsewhere.
Research Procedures
The pre- and post-study questionnaires were answered by students in class using the
Google Documents survey form (Appendix A). Their answers were collected in a Google
Documents spreadsheet. During lab activities, student questions were counted and
classified in the following categories: clarification of procedure, clarification of
knowledge, clarification of observation, prediction of results, and building on knowledge

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 25

(Appendix B). These question categories follow Xornam Apedoes (2007) field research
methods of measuring student engagement in inquiry-based learning. During the lab
activity, six students were chosen to be observed for their observed level of student
engagement. Two students, male and female, were randomly selected from the upper,
middle, lower third of the grade distribution for both classes. The twelve students were
subsequently observed during the lab activities, and their level of engagement was
recorded using a Likert scale at five minute intervals (Appendix B).
The indicators of engagement that I observed included the following:
1. Body Language. Engaged students were often pressed against the lab table or
were leaning forward or bent over the lab table. Disengaged students were often
leaning back, were not touching the lab table, and had a relaxed posture.
2. Eyes. Engaged students were either looking at their lab notebooks, the equipment
or materials on the lab table, or at their lab partners. Disengaged students were
looking around the room, at the wall, floor, etc.
3. Hands. Engaged students had busy handswriting in their lab notebook,
manipulating materials on lab table, or gesturing to lab partner about their work.
Disengaged students either did not have busy hands, or their hands were tapping a
pen or pencil, texting, playing with their hair, goggles, etc.
4. Verbal Communication. Engaged students were discussing chemistrythe
procedure, observations, or data analysis. Disengaged students were off topic.
After students wrote reflection questions in their lab reports, these were counted and
classified as one of the following question levels from Blooms taxonomy: knowledge,
comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Appendix B). Following

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 26

each lab activity, field notes were recorded to capture any other observations or
reflections of the experience.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 27

SECTION FOUR: DATA ANALYSIS

Findings
The purpose of this study is to determine how guided-inquiry labs affect the level of
student engagement in chemistry classes. Data that will be analyzed qualitatively include
post-study survey written responses and field notes. Data that will be analyzed
quantitatively include student engagement levels, the frequency and types of student
questions, and pre- and post-study survey responses regarding guided-inquiry lab
activities.
The data collected during the course of this action research project led to the findings
of four themes related to the effectiveness of using guided-inquiry labs to increase
student engagement. The first theme was finding the appropriate level of difficulty for the
research group. If an activity was too challenging, students would disengage from the
activity unless teacher intervention was provided. The second theme was an increased
level of motivation and confidence in the lab. Students were highly engaged and less
dependent on the teacher as a result of the challenging design of the guided-inquiry
activities. The third theme was an increased level of critical thinking. This was observed
in the level of student questions asked during lab, increased observations of metacognition, and student reflections following the study. Finally, the fourth theme was the
increased level of student ownership with designing and conducting scientific
investigations. These findings indicated that if the level of difficulty was appropriate for
the students, an increased level of student engagement during guided-inquiry lab
activities was observed.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 28

Finding the Appropriate Level of Difficulty


The first theme that emerged was finding the appropriate level of difficulty for the
guided-inquiry activities. This referred to both the content and the implementation of the
activity. If the content was exceptionally challenging or the students were expected to
complete the lab with no teacher intervention, some students disengaged from the
activity. The students of lowest ability disengaged from the activities the most often. The
evidence for this trend is observed in Figure 1. Student engagement levels were rated on
a Likert scale from least engaged (rating of 1) to most engaged (rating of 5). The research
subjects were given a code that described their academic performance in chemistry class
(1 = bottom third, 2 = middle third, 3 = top third), their gender (M = male, F= female),
and their class section (6 = 6th hour, 7 = 7th hour). Figure 1 shows that of the students
observed, the least engaged students, 1F6, 1M6, and 1M7, were also classified as group 1
students, performing in the bottom third of their class.
The level of engagement during guided-inquiry labs of students in groups 1, 2, and 3
were compared using two sample t-tests. For each test the null hypothesis states the mean
engagement level of the lower performing group equals the mean engagement level of the
higher performing group ( 1 = 2 , 1 = 3 , and 2 = 3 ). For each test, the alternative
hypothesis states the mean engagement level of the lower performing group is less than
the mean engagement level of the higher performing group ( 1 < 2, 1 < 3 , and 2 <
3 ). All t-tests were calculated at a significance level of 0.05 or 5%. The sample size for
each group of four students was approximately 150 recorded engagement level values.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 29

T-tests were conducted to determine the significance of the difference in engagement


level for the research subjects by academic performance level. The results are shown in
Table 1. The average engagement level for students in groups 1, 2, and 3 were compared.
The students in group 1 had a statistically significantly lower engagement level than
students in groups 2 and 3 (p = 1.7x10-14 and p = 5.7x10-16, respectively). There was no
statistically significant difference between students in groups 2 and 3 (p = 0.27).

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 30

Table 1. Average Engagement Levels for Students with Different Academic Performance
Levels (1 = low-, 2 = medium-, 3 = high-performing students)
Average Engagement Level
Significance values
(Likert Scale 1-5)
(p-values for t-tests)
Group 1 v. Group 2
3.7
4.6
1.7x10-14 *
Group 1 v. Group 3

3.7

4.6

5.7x10-16*

Group 2 v. Group 3

4.6

4.7

0.27

*p-values 0.05 show a statistically significant difference between the mean values of
each group
These results suggest that low performing chemistry students may not be prepared to
engage in guided-inquiry chemistry activities, and this instructional method may not be
appropriate for these students. The sample size in this study is too small to extrapolate to
the general population, but it shows that further research should be conducted to
determine if guided-inquiry lab activities are appropriate for low-performing chemistry
students.
High-performing students who worked with low-performing students indicated their
frustration working with students who became disengaged due to the challenging nature
of the guided-inquiry lab activities. Here are some of the statements made by students in
response to the prompt, What do you dislike about guided-inquiry labs? Explain your
answer, which illustrate that guided-inquiry labs may not be appropriate for all students:

Some people in your group may not work with you or help.

I usually come up with the lab procedures and my partners dont usually help.

Some people copy instead of doing it on their own.

The lack of focus in the class.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 31

I dislike the amount of input that a lot of students put in. Sometimes I feel like Im
the only one really thinking and realizing how it connects to what we were just
doing.

In addition, here are some of the statements made by students in response to the
prompt, What is the most challenging aspect of guided-inquiry labs? Explain your
answer, which illustrate that guided-inquiry labs may not be appropriate for all students:

Working with other people who dont really know whats going on in the lab.

Keeping your team on track.

Not everyone participates.

Getting everyone to participate.

That hardest part of it is getting the entire class involved.

Field notes revealed that as an activity became too challenging, students would
disengage unless the teacher intervened to provide additional scaffolding to support
student learning. For example, during the second guided-inquiry activity, Mole Ratios in
Compounds, students were overwhelmed with the data analysis portion of the lab
activity. Observations included students engaging in side conversations, students not
correcting simple mistakes made by the class on the whiteboard, and a general lack of
participation. Only three out of 22 students were actively using their calculator and
periodic table, both essential items for the assigned task. After teacher intervention to reengage students, all students were participating again. These findings indicate that
teachers must be aware of signs of disengagement and be prepared to intervene to
effectively facilitate guided-inquiry lab activities. In general, the guided-inquiry activities

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 32

chosen for this research study were appropriately challenging, and the activities were
adjusted as needed to obtain maximum levels of student engagement.
Increased Level of Motivation and Confidence
The second theme that emerged from the action research project was an increased
level of student motivation and confidence when participating in guided-inquiry lab
activities. Students who are motivated to successfully complete guided-inquiry labs must
also be highly engaged in the lab activity. Motivation was quantified with a Likert scale
rating of the level of student engagement. A student with a rating of 5 indicated the
student was very engaged, 4 was somewhat engaged, 3 was neutral, 2 was somewhat
disengaged, and 1 was not engaged.
Table 2 shows that the average individual engagement level ranged from 2.9 to 5.0
over the course of all six lab activities. Table 2 also shows that the average engagement
level for all research subjects in a particular lab ranged from 4.1 to 4.8. Although this
study is unable to show an increased level of engagement in comparison to traditional
verification labs, it shows that the average student engagement level for all lab activities
was a 4.3. This average value shows a moderately high level of engagement, indicating
that the students were mostly motivated to participate in and successfully complete the
guided-inquiry lab activities.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 33

Table 2. Average Student Engagement Levels During Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs


Student

Lab 1

Lab 2

Lab 3

Lab 4

1F6

4.3

2.3

1.8

2.6

1M6

4.5

4.0

1.8

2F6

5.0

4.0

2M6

4.8

3F6

Lab 5

Lab 6

average

3.3

2.9

3.3

3.3

4.0

3.5

4.8

4.0

4.3

4.9

4.5

5.0

5.0

4.7

4.6

4.9

4.8

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

3M6

5.0

5.0

5.0

4.9

4.8

5.0

4.9

1F7

4.9

5.0

5.0

5.0

4.9

5.0

5.0

1M7

4.9

3.7

4.0

3.0

2.6

3.7

3.6

2F7

5.0

4.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

4.8

2M7

4.8

5.0

4.2

3.8

3.6

5.0

4.4

3F7

4.7

4.8

5.0

4.6

4.5

4.7

4.7

3M7

5.0

4.2

3.3

3.2

3.5

4.8

4.0

Average

4.8

4.3

4.2

4.1

4.1

4.6

4.3

Field notes recorded after each lab activity revealed that students often were very
motivated and enthusiastic when working on guided-inquiry labs. Many students
appeared to be driven by the challenge of having to design a lab procedure and analyze
data without direct guidance from the teacher. Students engaged in on-topic discussions
and energetically debated the most effective way to approach a problem. Students were
observed to be leaning forward, listening carefully, and participating in both the
discussion and implementation of the procedure. They did not appear to be relaxed, but
instead they were focused and alert. Very few students were observed to be disengaged
during the guided-inquiry lab activities. There were little or no classroom management
issues with cell phone use, inappropriate use of lab equipment, or off-task behavior.
Throughout the study, the frequency of questions asked by students was recorded.
Figure 2 shows the trend of a decreased number of questions asked during each lab
activity from 61 questions in Lab 1 to 30 questions in Lab 6. This finding indicates that as

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 34

students become more experienced with guided-inquiry lab activities, they become more
confident and less likely to ask questions to clarify or confirm how to proceed with the
lab.

Students indicated an increased level of confidence in their post-survey questionnaire


responses. In response to the prompt, What do you like about guided-inquiry labs?
Explain your answer, 17 students responded that they liked having to make their own
procedure. In addition, in response to the prompt, What do you think is the value of
doing guided-inquiry labs instead of traditional labs, 20 students responded that they
valued the independence they developed through these activities. Enjoying and valuing
independent work in the lab indicates that the students had increased levels of confidence.
Here are some of the statements made by students which demonstrate their increased
confidence during guided-inquiry lab activities:

I like it because I can word [the procedure] in a way so I can understand it.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 35

[Guided-inquiry labs] help me understand the purpose of each step in the lab
process.

It gives me a chance to be independent and make my own procedure.

I understand the lab better because I have to actually think about the procedure
and what we have to do in the lab.

You learn more. You know what youre doing the lab for and you understand
what is going on.

It makes you rely less on the teacher.

There is some kind of self-achievement when doing [guided-inquiry labs]


ourselves.

The use of guided-inquiry lab activities showed increased levels of motivation and
confidence through the engagement level ratings, frequency of student questions, poststudy questionnaire responses, and field notes.
Increased Level of Critical Thinking
The third theme identified in the action research study was an increased level of
critical thinking. Students showed an increased level of critical thinking in the level of
student questions asked during guided-inquiry lab activities. Student questions were
classified under the following categories established by previous research on guidedinquiry labs by Apedoe (2007): clarification of procedure, clarification of knowledge,
clarification of observation, prediction of results, and building on knowledge. Figure 3
shows the frequency of the five types of questions asked during the guided-inquiry lab
activities. The frequency of questions to clarify procedure went from 27 to 7 from the
first lab to the last lab. In the same timeframe, the number of questions to clarify

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 36

observations dropped from 16 to 3 questions. Through the course of these labs, students
were observed to be engaged in a similar amount of dialogue for each activity. This
significant change shows a shift from dialogue focused on lower level thought (asking
clarification questions) to other on-topic dialogue that may employ higher levels of
thought processes. As seen in Figure 3, students did not show much difference in the
frequency of clarification of knowledge, prediction of results, or building on knowledge
questions asked during lab.

In addition, students reflected in their post-survey questionnaire responses about


increased levels of critical thinking during guided-inquiry lab activities. In response to
the prompt, What do you like about guided-inquiry labs? Explain your answer, 12
students responded that they liked having to do more thinking and use problem-solving
skills. In response to the prompt, What do you think is the value of doing guided-inquiry
labs instead of traditional labs, 22 students responded that they valued the opportunity to
apply their knowledge, think critically, and problem-solve to develop a better
understanding of the lab. Listed below are some of the statements made by students

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 37

which demonstrate their increased levels of critical thinking during guided-inquiry lab
activities:

[Guided-inquiry labs] let me think.

We actually need to think.

You actually need to think and not be a robot.

I like how we have different ideas and pretty much do the lab all together, rather
than the teacher just be like, here is your lab, do it, and answer these questions.

It makes you think about what you are going to accomplish instead of being just
told what to do.

I like [guided-inquiry labs] because it gives the students a chance to use their
ideas to come up with the lab.

People learn to think for themselves.

It requires us to think deeper.

I like [guided-inquiry labs] more because I can understand why I am doing certain
things. Its not just heres what youre doing, now go do it. You came up with
the lab, so you know exactly why you are doing it.

I think we do the guided-inquiry labs because it helps to make us more active in


the labs and makes our brains work harder. In the end, we probably understand
the lab activity better because we did it ourselves.

This will help us in the future when things are not just handed to us and we have
to be a team and figure it out ourselves.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 38

Increased Level of Student Ownership of Scientific Investigations


The fourth theme that emerged from the action research project was an increased level
of student ownership of scientific investigations. Evidence for this theme was collected in
a pre- and post-study survey questionnaire adapted from T. Campbell, et al. (2010). The
purpose of the questionnaire is to investigate the extent to which student experiences in
science classrooms are facilitated through principles of scientific inquiry. Students were
asked to select a Likert scale rating for the response that best describes their answer to
each question (1 = almost never, 2 = seldom, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often, and 5 = almost
always). The student average score in response to all questions was a 3.9 before the
action research project and 4.1 after the study was completed. Figure 4 shows the greatest
increased perception of the level of scientific inquiry during lab activities was designing
investigations and conducting investigations, from 3.1 to 3.7 and 4.0 to 4.4, respectively.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 39

The pre- and post-study survey results were quantitatively analyzed using a paired two
sample t-test. This was used to compare the means of the average student perception of
the level of guided-inquiry in the science classroom before and after the study. The
control group included the pre- survey responses from all research participants, and the
experimental group included the post-study survey responses from the same students. For
each test the null hypothesis states the mean of the control group equals the mean of the
experimental group ( C = E ). The alternative hypothesis states the mean of the
experimental group is greater than the mean of the control group ( C < E ). All t-tests
were calculated at a significance level of 0.05 or 5%. The sample size of the control
group and experimental group included the responses to 20 pre- and post-study questions
from 40 students.
Table 3 shows the results of the t-tests comparing the pre- and post-study ratings for
the questions as a whole and separated by category. When all ratings were analyzed
together, the results show the overall post-study results are significantly higher than the
pre- results (p = 2.6 x10-9), which indicate that the students experienced more scientific
inquiry during the action research timeframe than before. When the ratings are separated
by category, only section B (Designing Investigations) and section C (Conducting
Investigations) show a statistically significant increase (p = 9.2x10-11 and p = 7.5x10-5,
respectively). This indicates that the strongest components of scientific inquiry
demonstrated by the research participants were designing and conducting their own lab
investigations.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 40

Table 3. Student Responses to Pre- and Post-Study Questionnaire to Determine the Level
of Scientific Inquiry Experienced During Lab Activities. (Likert Scale Rating)
Significance values
Pre-Study
Post-Study
(p-values for t-tests)
Overall Results
3.9
4.1
2.6 x10-9*
A: Asking Questions

4.0

4.1

0.19

B: Designing Investigations

3.1

3.7

9.2x10-11*

C: Conducting Investigations

4.0

4.4

7.5x10-5*

D: Collecting Data

4.1

4.2

0.12

E: Drawing Conclusions

4.2

4.2

0.32

*p-values 0.05 show a statistically significant difference between the mean values of
each group
These results imply that the guided-inquiry lab activities provided a new or an
increased opportunity for students to design and conduct investigations in the science
classroom. As a result, students are taking ownership of their learning during scientific
investigations. This shows how the use of guided-inquiry labs is an effective strategy to
increase student engagement in chemistry class.
In addition, students reflected in their post-survey questionnaire responses about
increased levels of critical thinking during guided-inquiry lab activities. In response to
the prompt, What do you like about guided-inquiry labs? Explain your answer, 17
students responded that they liked having to make their own procedure. In response to the
prompt, What do you think is the value of doing guided-inquiry labs instead of
traditional labs, 20 students responded that they valued the independence they developed
through these activities. Listed below are some of the statements made by students which

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 41

demonstrate their increased levels of student ownership during guided-inquiry lab


activities:

I like how we can follow our own procedures.

You get to make up your own procedures.

I like [guided-inquiry labs] because they give me a chance to think how I would
go about finding the information that I need to find in the lab.

It gives me a chance to be independent and make my own procedure.

It makes you think about what you are going to accomplish instead of being just
told what to do.

It gives us freedom to make our own procedure.

I like it because it makes me think of the conclusion on my own.

It was fun figuring it out for ourselves.

I like them because it gives the students a chance to use their ideas to come up
with the lab.

I like that you can figure it out on your own because thats the best way to learn.

You have to think more and actually do everything in the lab so that you
understand it. Traditional [verification] labs are easier, but I understand it more
when we did guided-inquiry labs.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 42

SECTION FIVE: CONCLUSION


In conclusion, student engagement during guided-inquiry labs was measured in a
variety of ways including pre- and post-study questionnaires, observations of engagement
levels during lab activities, observations of the frequency and types of student questions
asked during lab, and recording field notes during or after the lab activities. When
analyzing the data sources, high levels of student engagement were confirmed, and four
significant themes emerged. The theme of finding the appropriate level of difficulty
indicates the need for teacher intervention if the activity becomes too challenging to
maintain high levels of student engagement. The themes of increased levels of motivation
and confidence, increased levels of critical thinking, and increased levels of student
ownership all provide evidence that student engagement levels are high during guidedinquiry lab activities. Therefore, guided-inquiry lab activities are an effective teaching
method to increase student engagement in chemistry classes.
Recommendations
Guided-inquiry labs should be used to replace traditional verification labs as much as
possible in chemistry classes. Not only have previous studies shown the academic
potential for this instructional strategy, but guided-inquiry labs also increase student
engagement in the learning process. Some traditional verification labs may still be
necessary and should not be replaced. A traditional verification lab may be preferred
when students are learning a new lab technique, especially one that is complicated,
involves new lab apparatus, or involves hazardous chemicals or processes. However, if
the lab technique or use of a new lab apparatus can be modeled by the teacher prior to
conducting the lab, guided-inquiry may still be the preferred method.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 43

Additional scaffolding should be provided for weak students. This is good practice for
differentiation in the classroom and will assist students who disengage when
overwhelmed with the challenge of guided-inquiry. This additional scaffolding should be
used discretely so as to not cause student labeling or humiliation. An example of
additional scaffolding could include additional beginning questions asked by the teacher
to facilitate student understanding of the purpose and procedure of the lab. These
questions could be handed out to designated individuals or lab groups who have shown
disengagement due to low academic performance in the class. In addition, a fill-in-the
blank outline or procedure with a scrambled order of steps might be given to lowperforming chemistry students to complete instead of designing an experiment from
scratch. This would allow the low-performing students to still be engaged and not distract
classmates or slow down their group members.
All students should be watched carefully for signs of disengagement, which may
indicate that the activity is too challenging. Additional facilitation for the group or
individuals may be provided by asking additional questions to stimulate thinking. With
this limited amount of scaffolding, the students may be able to re-engage in the activity.
This extra support may help ease student frustration with lack of participation from lowperforming peers and may increase the equality of work completed by group members.
If students are simply not engaged because they are choosing to not challenge
themselves, other techniques may be employed to increase the success of the guidedinquiry lab. For example, if students have had ample opportunity to learn the background
knowledge required for the lab but have not completed their formative practice work,
they may not be allowed to participate in the guided-inquiry activity. Students may be

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 44

asked to complete an entrance quiz before a lab. Students who either struggle with the
material or who simply have not done the work required to learn the material may not
pass the entrance quiz and may be given an alternate assignment. This may increase the
quality of the lab experience for students who have the adequate background knowledge
and have completed the required practice work. Although differentiation is always a
challenge, alternatives may be necessary for students who either are not strong with the
content material or students who have not adequately prepared for the lab.
Questions for Further Study
The results of this study suggest opportunities for further research regarding student
engagement in guided-inquiry labs. A possible research question may be, Do students
understand (and retain understanding of) the purpose or procedure better with guidedinquiry labs than with traditional verification labs? This could be done by asking the
students to describe the purpose of the lab or the purpose of a procedural step
immediately before and after completing the lab, and then again several days later. This
could be compared to a similar data collection method for traditional verification labs.
Another research question may be What is the most effective student grouping
method for guided-inquiry labs? Guided-inquiry labs can be completed as a whole class
(24+ students), with large groups (5-10 students), small groups (3-4 students), or pairs.
When working with larger groups, students need to delegate tasks and reconnect to share
data when the lab is completed. With small groups or pairs, each student typically
participates or observes all parts of the lab and has all data at the completion of the lab.
Larger groups may be able to accomplish more in a shorter period of time if students
have appropriately divided the work, but smaller groups may have a better understanding

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 45

of the complete process of the lab activity. Achievement levels, retention rates, and levels
of student engagement may be measured and compared with large and small group sizes.
In addition, qualitative analysis of the level of collaboration between peers and
perceptions of student independence from teacher assistance may be valuable.
Another research question that may be explored is, What is the most effective way to
include student leadership opportunities in guided-inquiry labs? Students can
successfully act as facilitators with the guided-inquiry lab framework. This allows for
even greater student ownership of the lab activity and encourages greater communication
and team-building skill development. During the research study period, several lab
activities were led by students. Student leaders were determined in a variety of ways:
student volunteers, peer nominations, or assignment by the teacher. The number of
student leaders for a lab activity ranged from two to four students. New student leaders
were chosen for each activity. To determine the most effective way to include student
leaders, research may compare the level of whole class engagement with student leaders
who are nominated versus volunteer leaders or student leaders who led a single activity
versus several activities.
Implementations for the Field
Scaffolding is an essential component for the success of guided-inquiry labs. Many
students have little or no experience with guided-inquiry labs and need to build
teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills to be successful (Peters, 2010).
In order to successfully implement this teaching method, students must be prepared for
the increased expectations for peer communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.
Students should be exposed to varying levels of scientific inquiry from the elementary

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 46

grades and onward to be prepared to engage in higher level guided-inquiry activities in


chemistry.
Due to recent initiatives to increase inquiry in science classes, this teaching strategy
should be applied to other science subjects besides chemistry (National Resource
Council, 2000; AP Central, 2011). This would also alleviate the need to do extensive
scaffolding at the beginning of the year in chemistry class if students are already prepared
when they arrive. In order for this inquiry approach to be effective, teacher training is a
high priority. Many science teachers are not familiar with guided-inquiry labs and have
no previous experience with this instructional method. Studies have shown that the
degree of commitment to and competence with guided-inquiry teaching methods is
critical in determining student performance (Akkus et al., 2007; Blanchard et al., 2010;
Poock et al., 2007). School districts looking for a successful shift towards inquiry-based
instruction should be prepared to support their teachers with professional development
opportunities to prepare them to effectively facilitate inquiry activities.
Another implication for changes that must occur for guided-inquiry to be successful is
the need to revise science curricula. Science curricula is very content heavy has the
tendency to favor mile wide, inch deep student knowledge and understanding. The
sheer number of learning objectives can serve as a barrier towards implementing guidedinquiry instruction because of the additional time requirements needed for this strategy.
Traditional verification labs take less time, but also show less student retention and
academic success. To reap the benefits of guided-inquiry instruction, more time must be
devoted to the lab activities. Guided-inquiry labs may allow for a deeper understanding of

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 47

the material, but less material can be included. As a result, curricula must be revised due
to these time restraints.
Closing Remarks
In conclusion, high levels of student engagement were observed during this study. The
theme of finding the appropriate level of difficulty indicates the need for teacher
intervention if the activity becomes too challenging to maintain high levels of student
engagement. The themes of increased levels of motivation and confidence, increased
levels of critical thinking, and increased levels of student ownership all provide evidence
that student engagement levels are high during guided-inquiry lab activities. Recent
initiatives to increase the use to inquiry in science classrooms across the nation confirm
the importance of assessing this teaching method. Prior research shows that guidedinquiry labs also improve academic performance and retention of the material learned in
chemistry class. Therefore, guided-inquiry lab activities are an effective and important
instructional strategy to use in chemistry classes.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 48

REFERENCES
Akkus, R., Gunel, M., & Hand, B. (2007). Comparing an inquiry-based approach known
as the science writing heuristic to traditional science teaching practices: Are there
differences? International Journal of Science Education, 29(14), 1745-1765.
AP Central. (2011). AP chemistry: Course revisions at a glance. Retrieved April 4, 2012,
from http://advancesinap.collegeboard.org/science/chemistry.
Apedoe, X. S. (2008). Engaging students in inquiry: Tales from an undergraduate
geology laboratory-based course. Science Education, 92(4), 631-663. Retrieved
April 30, 2011, from EBSCOhost database.
Blanchard, M. R., Southerland, S. A., Osborne, J. W., Sampson, V. D., Annetta, L. A., &
Granger, E. M. (2010). Is inquiry possible in light of accountability?: A quantitative
comparison of the relative effectiveness of guided-inquiry and verification
laboratory instruction. Science Education, 94(4), 577-616. Retrieved March 26,
2011, from EBSCOhost database.
Boyce, M. C., & Singh, K. (2008). Student learning and evaluation in analytical
chemistry using a problem-oriented approach and portfolio assessment. Journal of
Chemical Education, 85(12), 1633-1637. Retrieved March 26, 2011, from
EBSCOhost database.
Burke, K. A., Greenbowe, T. J., & Hand, B. M. (2006). Implementing the science writing
heuristic in the chemistry laboratory. Journal of Chemical Education, 83(7), 10321038. Retrieved December 19, 2011, from EBSCOhost database.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 49

Campbell, T., Abd-Hamid, N., & Chapman, H. (2010). Development of instruments to


assess teacher and student perceptions of inquiry experiences in science classrooms.
Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21(1), 13-30. Retrieved April 30, 2011, from
EBSCOhost database.
Deckert, A. A., Nestor, L. P., & DiLullo, D. (1998). An example of a guided-inquiry,
collaborative physical chemistry laboratory course. Journal of Chemical Education,
75(7), 860-63. Retrieved July 30, 2011, from EBSCOhost database.
Deters, K. M. (2005). Student opinions regarding inquiry-based labs. Journal of
Chemical Education, 82(8), 1178-1180.
Farrell, J. J., & Moog, R. S. (1999). A guided-inquiry general chemistry course. Journal
of Chemical Education, 76(4), 570. Retrieved March 26, 2011, from EBSCOhost
database.
Gallagher-Bolos, J. A., & Smithenry, D. W. (2004). Teaching inquiry-based chemistry:
Creating student-led scientific communities. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Gormally, C., Brickman, P., Hallar, B., & Armstrong, N. (2011). Lessons learned about
implementing an inquiry-based curriculum in a college biology laboratory
classroom. Journal of College Science Teaching, 40(3), 45-51. Retrieved July 30,
2011, from EBSCOhost database.
Hanson, D., & Wolfskill, T. (2000). Process workshops--a new model for instruction.
Journal of Chemical Education, 77(1), 120. Retrieved April 30, 2011, from
EBSCOhost database.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 50

Hume, A. (2009). Authentic scientific inquiry and school science. Teaching Science - the
Journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association, 55(2), 35-41 Retrieved
March 26, 2011, from EBSCOhost database.
Jalil, P. A. (2006). A procedural problem in laboratory teaching; experiment and explain,
or vice-versa? Journal of Chemical Education, 83(1), 159-163. Retrieved July 30,
2011, from EBSCOhost database.
Jones-Wilson, T. (2005). Teaching problem-solving skills without sacrificing course
content: Marrying traditional lecture and active learning in an organic chemistry
class. Journal of College Science Teaching, 35(1), 42-46. Retrieved April 30, 2011,
from EBSCOhost database.
McNeill, K. L. (2009). Teachers' use of curriculum to support students in writing
scientific arguments to explain phenomena. Science Education, 93(2), 233-268.
Retrieved August 6, 2011, from EBSCOhost database.
Middlecamp, C. H., & Nickel, A. M. L. (2005). Doing science and asking questions II:
An exercise that generates questions. Journal of Chemical Education, 82(8), 11811186.
Mills, G. E. (2007). Action research, a guide for the teacher researcher. (3rd ed.).
Pearson Prentice Hall.
Murphy, K. L., Picione, J., & Holme, T. A. (2010). Data-driven implementation and
adaptation of new teaching methodologies. Journal of College Science Teaching,
40(2), 80-86. Retrieved July 30, 2011, from EBSCOhost database.
National Resource Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington,
D.C.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 51

National Resource Council. (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards.
Washington, D.C.
Peters, E. E. (2010). Shifting to a student-centered science classroom: An exploration of
teacher and student changes in perceptions and practices. Journal of Science Teacher
Education, 21(3), 329-349.
Poock, J. R., Burke, K. A., Greenbowe, T. J., & Hand, B. M. (2007). Using the science
writing heuristic in the general chemistry laboratory to improve students' academic
performance. Journal of Chemical Education, 84(8), 1371-1379. Retrieved
December 19, 2010, from EBSCOhost database.
Rudd II, J. A., Greenbowe, T. J., & Hand, B. M. (2007). Using the science writing
heuristic to improve students' understanding of general equilibrium. Journal of
Chemical Education, 84(12), 2007-2011. Retrieved December 19, 2010, from
EBSCOhost database.
Settlage, J., & Southerland, S.A. (2007). Teaching science through inquiry. In Teaching
Science to Every Child, 87-93.
The pogil project. (2012). Retrieved February 18, 2012 from www.pogil.org.
Towndrow, P. A., Ling, T. A., & Venthan, A. M. (2008). Promoting inquiry through
science reflective journal writing. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science &
Technology Education, 4(3), 279-283. Retrieved July 30, 2011, from EBSCOhost
database.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 52

APPENDIX A

Pre- and Post-Study Questionnaire:

Adapted from T. Campbell et al., 2010

Purpose: This instrument is designed to investigate the extent to which student experiences in
science classrooms are facilitated through principles of scientific inquiry.
Instructions: Please select the response that best describes your answer to each question.
A = almost never, B = seldom, C = sometimes, D = often, E = almost always
A. Asking questions/framing research questions in the science classroom
A1. I am able to create questions which can be answered by lab investigations.
A2. My research questions are used to determine the direction and focus of the lab.
A3. Being able to write my own research question is important.
A4. I am given time to refine my research question so it can be answered by lab investigations.
B. Designing investigations in the science classroom
B1. I am given step-by-step instructions before I conduct a lab investigation.
B2. I design my own procedures for lab investigations.
B3. I critique and revise the procedure that I use when conducting a lab investigation.
B4. I can justify why my procedure is appropriate when conducting a lab investigation.
C. Conducting investigations in the science classroom
C1. I conduct my own procedures in a lab investigation.
C2. The lab investigation is conducted by the teacher in front of the class.
C3. I actively participate in lab investigations as they are conducted.
C4. Each student has a role as lab investigations are conducted.
D. Collecting data in the science classroom
D1. I determine which data to collect.
D2. I take detailed notes during each lab investigation along with the other data I collect.
D3. I understand why the data I am collecting is important.
D4. I decide when data should be collected in a lab investigation.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 53

E. Drawing conclusions in the science classroom


E1. I develop my own conclusion for lab investigations.
E2. I consider a variety of ways to interpret evidence when making lab conclusions.
E3. I connect my lab conclusions to scientific knowledge.
E4. I can justify my lab conclusions.

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 54

APPENDIX B
Data Collection Form
Date: __________ Hour:__ ______
Lab:________________________________________________
Questions asked during lab activity:
Clarification of
procedure
Clarification of
knowledge
Clarification of
observation
Prediction of results
Building on knowledge

Notes:

On Task / Off Task Behavior: Engagement level checked every five minutes
5=very engaged, 4=somewhat engaged, 3=neutral, 2=somewhat disengaged, 1=very disengaged
student

0-5

5-10

10-15

15-20

25-30

30-35

35-40

40-45

45-50

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 55

Notes:

Classification of questions written in lab notebook in reflection:


Knowledge
Comprehension
Application
Analysis
Synthesis
Evaluation

Notes:

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 56

APPENDIX C

Post-Study Questionnaire: Free Response Section

1. What do you like about guided-inquiry labs? Explain your answer.


2. What do you dislike about guided-inquiry labs? Explain your answer.
3. What is the most challenging aspect of guided-inquiry labs? Explain your answer.
4. What do you think is the value of doing guided-inquiry labs instead of traditional labs?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 57

APPENDIX D
Lab 1
Double Replacement Reactions Lab: How many possible reactions will occur between the
aqueous solutions provided? What are the net ionic equations for each reaction?
1. Beginning ideas: What questions do I have? What do I need to know before I begin?
2. Tests: See safety notes on back. As a lab group, what will we do in the lab to answer our
question? Write a clear, step-by-step, numbered procedure that a chemistry student from another
class could follow.
3. Observations: What do I see? Use your senses to write detailed qualitative observations in an
organized data table. Include a title and headings as needed.
4. Claims: What combinations reacted? What are the net ionic equations for these reactions?
5.

Data Analysis: What resource can you use to check your lab results? Are any of your lab
results in contradiction with your resource? If so, which?

6. Reflection: a. What was a strength of my groups performance today?


b. An area for improvement?
c. What questions (at least TWO) do I have about todays lesson /activity?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 58

APPENDIX E
Lab 2
Mole Ratios in Compounds Lab: What is the mole ratio of water to ionic compound in a
hydrated ionic compound?
1. Beginning Ideas: Brainstorm your thoughts and questions for this lab.
2. Tests: What safety do we need to consider for this lab? Write a clear, step-by-step,
numbered procedure that a chemistry student from another class could follow.
3. Observations: Use your senses to write detailed qualitative observations in an organized
data table. Include a title and headings as needed.
4. Claims: What is the mole ratio of water to copper (II) sulfate according to your class
data?
5. Evidence: Explain your ratio using calculations and several sentences.
6. Reading: Research the actual formula for the hydrated copper (II) sulfate. Include at
least two sources to confirm the ratio is correct. Do your calculations support the
accepted formula?
7. Writing: a) How would your calculated ratio of water to copper (II) sulfate be different
if you didnt heat the sample completely? Why? b) How would your calculated ratio of
water to copper (II) sulfate be different if you spilled some of the sample after heating but
before recording the final mass? Why? (for both questions, it may be helpful to do a
pretend calculation to see if the ratio would be higher or lower and to help explain
why)
8. Reflection: a. What was a strength of my groups performance with this activity?
b. An area for improvement?
c. What questions (at least TWO) do I have about this lesson /activity?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 59

APPENDIX F
Lab 3
Mole Airlines Crash Investigation: Identify the passengers by analyzing the compounds in or
on the passenger bodies. Determine who was likely murdered one hour prior to the crash.
1. Beginning Ideas: Brainstorm your thoughts and questions for this lab.
2. Tests: How will you use the provided information to identify the passengers? Write a
clear, step-by-step, numbered procedure that a chemistry student from another class could
follow.
3. Calculations: Show all work for calculations. Include labels such as units, passenger
numbers, etc.
4. Claims: Which passengers would be found with each of the chemical compounds?
Make a table to organize this information.
5. Evidence: Justify your claim for any two passengers using your evidence.
6. Writing: What did I learn from this activity? How can I apply what I learned to
everyday life?
7. Reflection: a. What was a strength of my groups performance with this activity?
b. An area for improvement?
c. What questions (at least TWO) do I have about this lesson /activity?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 60

APPENDIX G
Lab 4
Decomposition of Baking Soda

NAME:_________________________

Background: Due to the widespread use of sodium bicarbonate (commonly called baking soda)
in many food products, the thermal decomposition reaction has been studied extensively by food
chemists. Baking soda is used to prepare cakes in order to insure that cakes rise as they bake.
As the temperature of the cake batter reaches approximately 50oC, the baking soda decomposes
and carbon dioxide is released. The use of baking soda is especially popular in pancakes and
waffles since the high cooking temperatures of 350-450oF (150-230oC) cause the carbon dioxide
to be liberated before the dough has set. Thus, the batter rises before it sets, and we get a light
and tasty finished product.
There are three possible chemical reactions that could be occurring during the baking process.
All three of these reactions shown below are theoretically possible, yet only one reaction actually
occurs.
Possible Decomposition Reactions:
sodium bicarbonate(s) sodium hydroxide(s) + carbon dioxide(g)
sodium bicarbonate(s) sodium oxide(s) + carbon dioxide(g) + water(g)
sodium bicarbonate(s) sodium carbonate(s) + carbon dioxide(g) + water(g)
How can we experimentally determine which of these three reactions is correct?
1. Write the balanced chemical equations for each reaction listed above.
2. a. How can we use experimental evidence and the balanced chemical equations to
determine which reaction is correct? (possible lab equipment includes baking soda,
Bunsen burners, crucibles, crucible tongs, balance, ring stand, ring clamp, clay triangle,
metal scoopula)
b. What are safety considerations for this lab?
3. Observations: What did I find? Create a data table to record your observations.
4. Which is the correct reaction for the decomposition of baking soda?
5. Use stoichiometry to support your choice for the correct reaction.
6. How do my results compare to other groups results? How does it compare to the actual
results? (Look in a textbook or do an internet search.)
7. What did you find challenging about this activity?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 61

APPENDIX H
Lab 5
Group Roles:

Reader:____________ Pacer:______________
Traveler:___________

Clarifier:____________

Chemical Reaction Limiting Reagents


Why? Balanced chemical equations are like recipes for chemists. The reactants are like ingredients such
as butter and chocolate, and the products are like the finished product such as fudge. Industry uses
balanced chemical reactions to predict the amounts (or yields) of many different types of products. To
use reactants (or reagents) efficiently and cost effectively, the correct amounts of the reactants need to be
used to produce the most product for the lowest cost.
Learning objectives
Recognize the limiting ingredient in a recipe.
Recognize how to adjust a recipe to use the ingredients available.
Translate limiting ingredient in a recipe to limiting reactant (reagent) in a chemical equation.
Success criteria
Able to recognize the limiting ingredient in a recipe, the limiting reactant in a chemical reaction.
Able to recognize how to adjust a recipe and a chemical reaction to use ingredients and reactants
available.
Resources
Hanson, D. & Wolfskill, T. (2000). Process Workshops A New Model for Instruction. Journal of
Chemical Education, 77, 120-130.
Prerequisites

Balance chemical equations.


Recognize mole-mole ratios between reactants and products in a chemical
reaction.

New concepts
Using mole-mole ratios to predict amount of product in a reaction.
Prediction of product based on limiting ingredient (reactant).
Vocabulary
Reactant, product, chemical reaction, limiting reactant (reagent), excess reactant (reagent)

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 62

Model
A fudge recipe calls for:
2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 cups chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons vanilla
The ingredients you have on hand are:
2 Tbsp = 1 oz

4 cups sugar
3 cups evaporated milk
2 cups chocolate chips
1-8 oz. bottle of vanilla

Key Questions
1. According to the model, how much of each ingredient is necessary to make fudge?
Sugar

Evaporated milk

Chocolate chips

Vanilla

2. If you follow the recipe, using only the ingredients on hand in the model, how much
of each ingredient will be left over after you have made the fudge?
Sugar

Evaporated milk

Chocolate chips

Vanilla

3. Which ingredients on hand were in excess of what the recipe required?


4. Which ingredient on hand was the limiting reagent in making the fudge?

Exercises:
1. You want to make 10 dozen standard-sized cookies as specified by a recipe that requires 16 oz.
butter, 4 eggs, 3 cups of flour, and 4 cups of sugar. In taking inventory of your supplies, you find
that you have 16 oz. butter, 6 eggs, and 3 cups each of flour and sugar.
(a) Which ingredient will limit the number of cookies you can make?

(b) How many standard-sized cookies can you make?

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 63

3. There are 150 H 2 molecules and 100 O 2 molecules mixed to produce H 2 O. This reaction is described
by the following equation. Use the chart method to project the amount of product that could be produced
from each of the starting amounts
2H 2 +

O2

____

____

2H 2 O
_____

____
____
_____
a) How many water molecules can you produce from your supply of hydrogen and oxygen?
b) Which is the limiting reactant? _________
c) Which reactant is in excess? ______ How many molecules remain? ______
d) Start with 500 H 2 molecules and 500 O 2 molecules. Make the chart predicting how
many water molecules could be produced from each starting amount.
2H 2 + O 2 2H 2 O
1. How many water molecules will be produced?
____
____

____

_____

____
_____

____

____

2. What is the limiting reagent? ______


3. What reactant is left over and how much? _____,

e) Start with 500 H 2 molecules and 100 O 2 molecules. Make the chart predicting how many
water molecules could be produced from each starting amount.
2H 2 +
____

O2

____
____
_____

2H 2 O

1. How many water molecules will be produced?

____

_____

2. What is the limiting reagent? ______

____

____

3. What reactant is left over and how much? _____,

Model 3
Start with 10.0 g. H 2 and 64.0 g. O 2 . Convert the grams to moles and put mole amounts in the
chart.
2H 2 +

O2

____

____

_____

____

____

_____

2H 2 O

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 64

What is the limiting reagent? ______ How many grams of water will be produced?

Exercises
1. Two compounds, dinitrogen tetroxide (N 2 O 4 ) and hydrazine ( N 2 H 4 ) are used as rocket
fuels. When the two compounds are mixed, they ignite spontaneously and produce
nitrogen gas and water. Write the balanced chemical equation.

2. 8.00 g of dinitrogen tetroxide and 4.00 g of hydrazine are mixed.


a. Convert amounts to moles and determine the limiting reagent
b. Calculate the amount of both products formed in grams
c. Determine which reactant remains and how much remains in grams

3. Balance the following reaction. Determine which product will form a solid.
(Use the solubility ruleslow solubility = solid, soluble = aqueous)
___ Ca(NO 3 ) 2 (aq) + ___ AlPO 4 (aq) ___ Al(NO 3 ) 3 + ___ Ca 3 (PO 4 ) 2
4. 49.2 g. of Ca(NO 3 ) 2 and 36.6 g. of AlPO 4 are dissolved in water and reacted. Calculate
how much of the precipitate forms in grams. (Convert to moles and determine the
limiting reagent.)

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 65

APPENDIX I
Lab 6
How can we produce exactly 2.00 grams of product?
Possible reactants: calcium chloride and potassium carbonate OR calcium chloride and sodium
carbonate
1. What information do we need before conducting the lab?
What are the safety considerations for this lab?
2. What is my experimental procedure? (possible lab equipment includes pure solid
compounds listed above, distilled water, beakers, stir rods, ring stand, ring clamp, clay
triangle, metal scoopula, funnel, filter paper, watch glass)
3. Observations: What did I find? Create a data table to record your observations.
4. Claim: How much product did I produce?

What is my percent yield if the theoretical

yield is 2.00 grams?


5. Explain how possible errors in your lab technique could cause you to have a percent yield
a) below 100% and b) above 100%.
6. Reflection: What could you have done better or done differently?
7. In 3-4 sentences, summarize your entire process to produce 2.00 grams of solid product.
(Include a brief description of the pre-lab work and experimental procedure.)

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 66

APPENDIX J
CARROLL COLLEGE RESEARCH CONSENT FORM
Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs
Kelly Beck
DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH BY INVESTIGATOR
1. PURPOSE OF STUDY: This study is looking at the factors that affect the level of student
engagement in a chemistry laboratory. Students will be participating in guided-inquiry lab
activities as part of this study. Students are responsible for constructing their own experimental
procedures and analyzing results under the guidance of the instructor. Factors such as the
frequency and types of questions asked by students, student reflections, and participation in lab
will be analyzed to assess the level of student engagement in lab.
2. DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY INCLUDING PROCEDURES TO BE USED: Students
will be participating in guided-inquiry labs throughout the school year. Students will also be
expected to complete a survey of attitudes and perceptions of hands-on group lab work before and
after the study period. Students will be expected to reflect on their lab experiences in student
journals. Besides the pre-and post-study surveys, this work is part of the curriculum, and no
additional time or work is expected of the students to complete the research project. I will answer
any questions about the study at any time.
3. DESCRIPTION OF ANY PROCEDURES THAT MAY RESULT IN DISCOMFORT OR
INCONVENIENCE: Not applicable.
4. EXPECTED RISKS OF THE STUDY: Not applicable.
5. EXPECTED BENEFITS OF THE STUDY TO THE PARTICIPANT: Expected benefits from
participating in guided-inquiry labs include increased academic performance, increased
communication skills, and increased self-confidence in laboratory skills in comparison to
participating in traditional, cookbook style labs.
6. OTHER TREATMENT AVAILABLE: Not applicable.
7. USE OF RESEARCH RESULTS: The results obtained from this study will help teachers
identify factors which increase student engagement in guided-inquiry labs. By using these factors
to increase student engagement, teachers can improve the quality of education for future
chemistry classes at Kettle Moraine and at other high schools as well.
8. FREEDOM TO WITHDRAW: Participation is completely voluntary and that a decision not
to participate will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which the subject/participant is
otherwise entitled.
9. COMPLAINTS: If you have any complaints about your treatment as a participant in this
study, please call or write:
Dr. Joanne Passaro, Provost

Student Engagement in Guided-Inquiry Chemistry Labs 67

Carroll College
100 N. East Avenue
Waukesha, Wisconsin 53186
262/524-7267
10. RESEARCH SUBJECT/PARTICIPANTS RIGHTS
I have read or have had read to me all of the above. Mrs. Beck has explained the study to me and
answered all of my questions. I have been told of the risks or discomforts and possible benefits of
the study.
I understand that I do not have to take part in this study, and my refusal to participate will
involve no penalty or loss of rights to which I am entitled. I may withdraw from this study at any
time without penalty.
The results of this study may be published, but my records will not be revealed unless required by
law.
Any identifying information obtained in this study will be treated as confidential and will be
safeguarded in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974.
I understand my rights as a research subject/participant, and I voluntarily consent to participate
in this study. I understand what the study is about and how and why it is being done. I will
receive a signed copy of this consent form.
11. SIGNATURES
__________________________ _
Student Name (Printed)

______________________________
Student Name (Signed)

__________
Date

__________________________ _
Parent/Guardian Name (Printed)

______________________________
Parent/Guardian Name (Signed)

__________
Date

__________________________ _
Researcher Name (Printed)

______________________________
Researcher Name (Signed)

__________
Date