Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056, United States
J. Chem. Educ., 2013, 90 (4), pp 500–505
Publication Date (Web): March 15, 2013
Copyright © 2013 The American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc.
The large class sizes of first-year chemistry labs makes it challenging to provide students with hands-on access to instrumentation because the number of students typically far exceeds the number of research-grade instruments available to collect data. Multifunctional chemical analysis (MCA) systems provide a viable alternative for large-scale instruction while supporting a hands-on approach to more advanced instrumentation. This study describes how the capabilities of MCA systems are extended to introduce liquid chromatography (LC) and flow injection analysis (FIA) in undergraduate laboratories. A semi-micro plastic cuvette with a Teflon tubing insert is fashioned as the flow cell for a MCA absorbance–fluorescence detector. Two MCA systems, Vernier and MeasureNet, are used in two unique experiments demonstrating the detection of salicylate in aspirin tablets by FIA and the LC separation of a mixture of riboflavin and fluorescein. Both instruments, composed of a syringe pump, T-injection valve, and the MCA detector, operated in the kinetic mode, are rugged and inexpensive permitting student construction, if desired.
According to the American Chemical Society, hands-on activities significantly enhance learning at all levels of science education. The American Chemical Society, or ACS, is the world’s largest association of individual chemical scientists and engineers, and its newest science education policies communicate the importance of hands-on learning in the science lab. ACS education programs begin pre-kindergarten and extend through undergraduate and graduate studies.
Hands-on activities are the basis for the laboratory portion of any science class and are essential for learning chemistry. A student enrolled in a hands-on chemistry course directly experiences laboratory chemicals, chemical properties and reactions as well as gaining familiarity with laboratory equipment and apparatus. There is simply no substitute for the real-life experience of hands-on training.
One good example demonstrating the superiority of hands-on learning over simulation or lecture is teaching a child to ride a bicycle. Putting a child on a bike and giving her a push teaches her much more in one minute than she could gain by watching videos of other children on bicycles or listening to a lecture on physics. Hands-on learning allows for deeper comprehension of scientific principles, and it benefits the American Chemical Society and the rest of the United States to campaign for a return to this inclusive style of education.
ACS has good reason to promote hands-on learning. A 1982 meta-analysis of 15 years of research including 57 studies of 13,000 students showed that students who participated in hands-on education scored 20 percent better than did students using traditional or textbook approaches. The students engaged in hands-on learning demonstrated gains in creativity, attitude, perception and logic. The National Assessment of Educational Progress noted that teachers who incorporated hands-on activities into the curriculum at least once a week out-performed their peers by more than 40 percent of a grade level in science.
No Child Left Behind act, or NCLB, appears to have had an unintended negative impact on hands-on learning, particularly for children at the elementary and middle school ages. Science is not a federally mandated assessment, so teachers and administrators instead focused on subjects compliant with NCLB assessments such as reading and math. Pupils who were students during the height of NCLB continue to struggle with this deficit well into their post-secondary education unless given an opportunity to catch up with adequate hands-on training in the laboratory. For many, this chance does not occur until high school or beyond, if at all.
Undergraduate and graduate institutions must offer hands-on opportunities in the laboratory to ensure graduates are able to meet and overcome the challenges of modern chemistry. Some of these advanced students will rely on these skills to solve real-world problems in the workplace while others return to the classroom to teach others. ACS challenges teachers to reach new goals of excellence and advocates certain measures to help educators achieve superiority, including requiring teachers to take undergraduate courses to ensure they are prepared to teach coursework and enhancing funding at all levels so that science teachers have access programs that allow them to expand and update their science knowledge base. ACS also encourages teachers and school systems to use technology to reach students with different learning styles. The ACS is also dedicated to improving the work conditions of science teachers, reduce attrition and improve safety in the classroom laboratory.
Some educators are tempted to take advantage of the shortcuts modern technology has to offer but teachers should choose wisely. Computer simulations are flashy and inexpensive but are not an adequate substitution for hands-on activities, even at the collegiate level. Educators must use computer simulation as a supplement to, not as a replacement for, hands-on learning. While intellectual curiosity should be piqued with internet searches, guided by lectures and accelerated with computer simulation and video, hands-on learning is still one of the most effective ways to instill confidence in knowledge and increased comfort with using laboratory and technical equipment.
ACS recognizes the special need for new assessment equipment at the undergraduate level. This equipment should assess a student’s understanding of science and the use of methods of science to give the instructor a fuller appreciation of the student’s grasp of science, not just his ability to recite scientific facts. Giving students access to a shared diode-array visible or UV-vis spectrometer to perform absorption, emission, fluorescence and reflectance experiments has so much more impact than just describing.
The American Chemical Society emphasizes the importance of a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to science to not only help students gain knowledge and understanding of scientific principles but also to teach students how scientists explore and make sense of the natural world. Hands-on learning teaches students to learn with the same tools used by professional scientists. It teaches them to think like scientists by creating hypotheses, making observations and performing inquiries. Students improve skill proficiency in scientific processes, such as laboratory work, graphing results and interpreting data.
Hands-on learning has been around since the days of Aristotle, who said, “What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.” Hands-on learning enhances the student’s ability to test, sense, apply and learn. This type of learning involves and improves upon the art of questioning. Use hands-on, state of the art analytical instrumentation to revolutionize the way your students learn chemistry and science in your classroom laboratory.
“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember. I do and I understand”
Chemists Identify New Way to Create Photovoltaic Devices
(PhysOrg.com) -- A promising new polymer-based method for creating photovoltaic devices, which convert sunlight into electricity, has been identified by chemists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Their new technique should lead to more efficient power production than achievable by the current generation of semiconductors.
The American Chemical Society has been awarded a $1 million chemistry public outreach grant from NSF. According to C&EN editor Sophia L. Rovner, the grant will be used to communicate the contributions of chemistry to society. This chemical education grant from NSF is timed perfectly because, 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry.
The grant "enables ACS efforts to sustain the momentum of IYC 2011," says ACS Executive Director and CEO Madeleine Jacobs . "Our members, committees, local sections, technical divisions, and our external IYC Partners—and their networks—will be vital to help the project be a success."
To learn more go to C&EN article ACS Wins $1 Million NSF Grant.
The 242nd American Chemical Society is approaching fast. This year the conference will be held on August 29 - August 31st in Denver. The theme of this years conference is " The Chemistry of Air, Space and water". Ironically the theme fits the current heat and drought conditions plaging many areas of the US and the sad ending of the space shuttle program.
Here is a breif list of some of the more interesting programs at the conference.
Foods for Extreme Environments
Modern Agriculture and Biotechnology – Tools for Sustainability
Chemistry in Mobile Spaces: Chemical Apps for Mobile Devices:
Novel Solutions to Water Pollution
Urban Greehouse Gas Emissions, Climate Change, and Mitigating Impacts
Irv Levy, The Division of Chemical Education program chair has created a great program line up for this years conference.
Greening Undergraduate Education: Lecture and Laboratory Innovations
Jerry Bell and the Joy of Chemistry
Celebrating IYC 2011 through Education and Community Outreach
Research at Community Colleges: Strategies for Enhancing Student Transfer and Success
Creating Innovation by Collaboration in Green Chemistry Between Industry University Centers and Students
Chemistry on Stamps Exhibition
For a complete program list - 242nd ACS Program.
Please make sure to take some time to visit the Vendor exposition. MeasureNet will be at booth 1505, Mark Hoffman will be manning the booth this year. Mark will be happy to tell you about some of the new products MeasureNet has introduced this year. Here are of some the exciting new additions to our Multifunctional Chemical Analysis Network ( MCAN ) technology for chemistry lab.
Cloud based Student Lab Report feature has been added to student data storage site - LabLinx. Students will now be able to submit their lab reports online saving time and paper. We have also a Click and View capablity so students can instantly view their laboratory data without having to download and import into Excel to view their data, another big time saver.
For upper level courses we have added a cloud based experiment remote monitor and alert feature. This allows students and researches to monitor their experiments over the internet with computers or smart phones. It even has a text alert feature to let you know if something has gone wrong. We will be adding many more features to this remote monitor capability in the coming months.
We look forward to another great conference in Denver and hope to see you there.