Adapting the Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory to Contemporary Learning Theory

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de Zoete, J.C.
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The value of the laboratory to science learning has been under scrutiny. This thesis examines the undergraduate chemistry laboratory and seeks to show how improvements in student outcomes will result from reformulating the laboratory in accordance with contemporary learning theory. First, this thesis examines the traditional undergraduate chemistry laboratory from the perspective of cultural historical activity theory to determine what inconsistencies possibly exist. The thesis then considers factors influencing the structure of the traditional laboratory, the nature of learning assumed by the traditional lab and factors influencing students to show how these form barriers to learning in the laboratory. Third, the thesis explores contemporary theories of learning and how they accommodate individuals and how they promote deeper conceptual understanding. Subsequently, the thesis investigates research into laboratory learning, both laboratory variables and influences on students, to determine their effect on learning. This enables the thesis to reconceptualize the undergraduate chemistry laboratory and analyze whether the incompatibilities of the traditional lab with deep learning are alleviated or resolved.