Archive for April, 2008

Green Chemistry in Analytical Chemistry Laboratory: The Reflections on my Teaching

Throughout writing the reflection on my teaching practices, I try to find out the advantages and the limitations of green chemistry approaches in my teaching laboratory. I agree that “reflection is an intrinsically good and desirable aspect of professional development” (Bain, Ballantyne, Mills, and Lester, 2002, p.10). Applying the green chemistry approaches is a part of my journey as a learner and an educator. Reflection on three of the cognitive interests of Habermas
(technical, practical and emancipatory) as described by Grundy (1987, p.10), I realized that most of my teaching practices are shaped by technical interest. This story remains me on the other reflection when I try to start applying green chemistry approaches.

One day, my students have practical work on determination of iron in water. It is common that the percentage of Iron the water at my university is higher than the health standard. Therefore, the practicum of Iron determination is important to control the water quality. However, since the first time, I just follow the practicum procedures which already set up by the department. I never realize or evaluate the procedures within my teaching until my student come to ask the questions. He asked me “Why do we add 25 mL of acid sulphate solution, (he showed me the practicum book), is it right?” This “why” question seems to be a simple question, I also could answer “yes, just follow the procedures”, but it caused me to think, “Acid sulphate uses for avoiding hydrolysis and creates reaction environment, if we add 10 mL, the reaction remains continue. So, why should we add 25mL?” I looked at the practicum book, “Why do I never think about the quantities?” I realized that the quantity of the solutions that they use is more than necessary. In the silent, I think but I neither do nor know what I should do. The book is already published. If I want to change it, I have to do experiments to prove my ideas in experimental methods were precise .Should I trap again in the standardization of procedures? Should I just silent, even I know the better way?

I now use that story as my critical reflection on the technical interest. I did not mind about my students’ understanding for I just required them to finish the experiments. They had to do the experiments using exactly the same procedures and quantities as stated in the practicum book. According to Grundy (1987, p.12), the technical interest focuses on controlling students and academic achievement. In addition, I tended to finish the experiments and used the “wonderful uncontestable assessment” card without an apprehension of my students’ understanding. I just stayed in the laboratory and observed my students’ experiments. I manipulated and controlled the teaching environment (Stable & Nord, 1985, p.15) through systematic experimental procedures and assessments. I never asked their understanding of the concepts because of the many experiments to finish in a limited time. The focus was finishing too many experiments within a short time. I did not realize that my target of finishing those chemistry experiments predisposed me to teach chemistry with meaningless experiences. I neglected the value of the educational process and the way of my students’ understanding (Henderson, 2004, p.50) to give them the worth value of knowledge.

Furthermore, there are 12 principles of green chemistry which are 1) prevention atom, 2) economy, 3) less hazardous chemical syntheses, 4) designing safer chemicals, 5) safer solvents and auxiliaries, 6) design for energy efficiency, 7) use of renewable feedstocks, 8) reduce derivatives, 9) catalysis, 10) design for degradation, 11) real-time analysis for pollution prevention, 12) inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention. These 12 principles guide me to apply several strategies in my laboratory such as small quantity of chemical substances, substitution of dangerous chemical substances, and recycling the waste which concern on effectiveness of teaching laboratory, environment friendly, and students’ safety. However, I realized that all the strategies that I apply only focus on how the practicum becomes effective and how it becomes environmental friendly. I never think that how it could influence my students’ perception on the environmental problems. Moreover, encouraging them to be aware and active participation in the sustainability will be challenging for my pedagogical practices. Throughout the exploring research studies on green chemistry, I found that most research studies focus on how to create the procedures of chemistry process which involves with green chemistry approaches. But, the research on green chemistry in education is less explored, especially the ideas on students’ empowerment on sustainability education. As a beginning teacher, I realized my limitation on knowledge and practical experiences. Therefore, this writing process will help me much to be a professional teacher. Moreover, these are several strategies which I apply in my laboratory which is guided by green chemistry approaches:

The less Quantity and Less Dangerous of Chemical Substances
My critical reflections taught me that I could make the improvements. Compared to the school system and university, a lecturer has more room to change the methods or material as long as the objectives are achieved. For example, I changed the procedures of analytical chemistry practicum by green chemistry approaches. I applied small quantity of chemical substances and substitution of dangerous chemical substances. Those are elements of a green chemistry approach, which are reducing the quantity of dangerous chemical substances (Lancaster, 2002). I remember my bad experience in organic laboratory 4 years ago. If we had used a small quantity, that accident might not have happened. The toxic gas that I inhaled can be the result of the excess quantity of dangerous chemical substances. Although I realized that, there was also a safety issue which related to the laboratory condition.

I start to apply green chemistry approach by changing the practicum procedures. In the laboratory my students did the experiment while I also tried to do the experiment but I used the least quantity of chemical substances. Sometimes, the reactions did not take place and I gave up. I only had two semesters to finish my experiments. I proved my methods by using the methods for students in another group who also did analytical chemistry practicum. Some of my methods worked but others failed. The weakness is the apparatus; we do not have small-scale laboratory equipment. Therefore, sometimes, it was difficult to analyze the small amount of product of reactions using large volume equipment. At the end, before I went to Australia, I already changed to some new methods. Now, the methods are applied in the Analytical Chemistry.

Moreover, I realize that I don’t want trap into the measurement. But, I try to find out the procedures within the new methods are valid and applicable to be applied in Analytical Chemistry practicum. Moreover, throughout, analysis of the students’ practicum report, I found that the results both using the green chemistry approaches and without using green chemistry approaches is almost similar. The factors which might be influenced the results is the skills of students and the equipment. Furthermore, I applied the different  methods on “Determination of Iron” which apply green chemistry approaches and without green chemistry approaches. The procedure with Green Chemistry approaches not only provides the effective process of practical work, but also using the less quantitity and types of chemical substances. However, I realize that the procedure of Iron determination without green chemistry approaches is to teach student how to work with the Fe(III) sample. Therefore, the students have to understand the concept beyond the procedure.

 The Safety
Furthermore, the other problem that I found in analytical chemistry practicum was safety. Analytical chemistry laboratory was not appropriate for 30 students which are crowded. Sometimes, it was very difficult for me to observe all of my students’ activities. It was also difficult for me to inhale the fresh air. In addition, most of chemical substances used in analytical chemistry laboratory are dangerous. Therefore, it was very important for me to be concern about students’ safety. One day, one of my students did not use the gas mask. So, I asked him “Why are you not using the gas mask?” He said, “I forgot to bring it.” I strongly advised him “You should have one, either borrow it from your friends or go out of this laboratory.” It was just too difficult religiously for me to discipline my students in the laboratory. However, I had to educate my students to observe safety measures, since they will become chemistry teachers who are responsible for their students’ safety in the laboratory. I would remember then my accident. I did not want it happening with my students. Laboratory safety Laboratory’s size is too small for 30 students. I tried to minimize the interaction between my students and the dangerous chemical substances. I substituted some dangerous solution with others. For example, to determine concentration of Iodium, we can use Arsenic Oxide, but it is very toxic. Therefore, I changed it to Iron. Sometimes, if I could not change the substances, I chose another method which would not use the dangerous chemical. I had many ideas to change, but my knowledge about those reactions was very limited. Thus, experiences like this taught me that using small quantities of chemicals, small-scale equipment, reducing the waste, and recycling are the concepts of “green chemistry”.

 The Waste Problems

I was also concerned with the waste from my laboratory within the environmental issues. My students used to throw the waste directly to the washbasin. It was too dangerous because the concentrated solution will have negative effects on the environment. I remember the time when I saw the houses around my university and I put it into story which stimulates to think critically on my role.

Where is the Waste?
I am looking at the window at the third floor of science laboratory. My eyes focus on the houses around my university. The houses are not in good condition because of most of the people who live there come from low income family. The waste are everywhere, the dirty water stagnant around the houses, the air are polluted and bad smell. My eyes move around the one place which they called it public toilet. It is common that there are some public toilets which are used by the people around the place which are inappropriate condition. Looking back to the laboratory room where my students work on the practicum. Then, I think of the wastes that are produced by my laboratory. It might be pass the place where the people live there. I know that there are some places for the laboratory waste, but because of the high cost of waste management, sometimes the waste treatment is inappropriate. As the result, the liquid waste could be adsorbed by the soil which is groundwater resources. Then, the water is used by those people. Oh my God, how could it happen? May be I just the little effects now, but how about 5, 10 or 15 years later? What should I do then?

Again, the reflection encourages me to do the improvement. I decided to apply the new rule. They had to dilute it first before throwing it to the washbasin. The other strategy that I used was using sand. I put the container with sand inside it. My students had to throw the waste there. It was better than throwing them into the washbasin that was connected to the water channel. In addition, I thought about the recycle process of using chemical solution, such as silver nitrate that is used as a titrant. That solution can be recycled as a silver precipitation. However, at that time, it was very difficult for me for rechecking the experimental methods and recycling at the same time. I realize that the strategies that I applied are very simple, but as a beginning teacher, I just think that I have to do something, not only as an educator who has responsibility to shape my students, but also as a human who has social responsibility to the society. Therefore, I am really hope that my journey at SMEC could be the powerful provision for me to be an critical and reflective educator.


Metacognitive skills on students’ empowerment

Since my journey at SMEC, I comprehend that becoming a teacher is a great work which could making changes in the society throughout empowerment the young generations to be active citizens. Moreover, even though, I also applied the meaningful learning experiences in the several contexts, but I never think to provoke my students to give active participation in the social reconstruction. Moreover, throughout the metacognitive skills, I find the way how chemistry could encourage my students to get involve in the society.

Under the influence of politics, economics, social, culture, and religion which relate to curriculum as content and subject matter, I will use that content as a tool to empower my students as imaginative thinkers. For example, I could use the metacognition approaches which encourage the students to reflect on their thinking process. I bring them to be conscious that they could active participate in the society. According to Fensham (1988), teachers should “act as couriers” which bring science curriculum into their life. I will concern on empower my students as social agencies to participate in the better world without ignore their holistic as individual. I believe that every student is “an active initiator and reactor” for his or her environment (Marsh, 2000, p.215). My students could use their experiences to relate it with the subjects. It is important to empower my students to dialogue with their experiences (Pinar & Reynolds, 1992). However, I also need to explore “my students’ motivations and feelings about learning as important as the content of learning” (Arnold, 2005, p.19).

Furthermore, throughout the metacognitive skills which provide the meaningful learning experiences for the students. I could relate it with the concept of currere which I found powerful in the curricula unit. According to Pinar (1975) as cited in Pinar (2004), curriculum as currere related to “academic knowledge and life history in the interest of self understanding and social reconstruction” (p.35) which has four steps which are regressive, progressive, analytical, synthesis. According to Doll (2002), currere orientation is on the reflection and transformation of personal experience. Moreover related to experience, currere refers to reconceptualise and exploring existential individual life experiences (Schubert 1986; Ornstein & Hunkins, 2004; Print, 1993; Lovat & Smith, 1993). Therefore, in pedagogic practices, students could use their autobiography to evaluate their experiences, think about future, analysis both past and future, and create the people that they want to be.

Students’ demonstration in my country has powerful force. Most of demonstration that they do is to criticize the government policy such as the increase of petrol price, the increase of education fees, and the corruption. The most powerful demonstration is happened in my country when the students force to replace the president Suharto in 1998. They did the demonstration within the couple days in Jakarta. The powerful demonstration which show that the young people have powerful voices which represents the society. Therefore, based on exploring the idea of empowerment’s students within chemistry teaching and the fact that the students could be empowered throughout the education process, I will expand my understanding and my contribution in this concept to participate in my the reconstruction of my society.

My Reflection on Analytical Chemistry Practicum: The Problems and Dilemmas

My experiences working in the laboratory since I was student in high school encourage me to explore more laboratory teaching. However, I felt uncomfortable when I should reflect on my teaching practices which including my institution, colleagues, students, and others. Because, I realize that the subjectivity in every journey in my teaching practices will influence my writing. Therefore, I hope that the quality standard in my narrative will help me to guide my subjectivity.

Furthermore, based on my experiences, I found several problems in Analytical Chemistry Practicum Unit.
 Students’ Understanding
I found that it is difficult for students to understand the concept of analytical chemistry which requires the level of analytical thinking. Compared to other units, the number of students who are failed in Analytical Chemistry (theory) is higher than other units which around 10 from 30 students. Therefore, it is common that the lecturer in this unit gave the short course in holiday to help the students who are failed. The problem on students’ understanding on the concepts of Analytical Chemistry (theory) influences their learning process in the laboratory. After couple months in laboratory, I tried to ask my students in laboratory to explore their understanding. I found that most of them didn’t understand what they did in the laboratory, they just follow the practicum procedures without understand the concepts. Therefore, I explore the metacognitive approach to overcome this problem.

 Procedures of Practicum
Since, I was student in the university I found that most of the practicum’s procedures are ineffective which using large number of chemical substances which are dangerous. Therefore, it is getting worse when students work on the many steps of procedures without understand the concepts. Therefore, I try to find out the better procedures of practicum which are more effective and environmental friendly which I will explore on my chapter four.

 The Integration between Theory and Practical Work
In my university, the unit of Analytical Chemistry theory and Analytical Chemistry practicum are separated. The time these units starts is also differences, the theory will much further start than the practical in laboratory. As a result, sometimes, the students found difficulties to engage between the theory and practice. Furthermore, reflect on my role as a lecturer, I should arrange the time to discuss more with the lecturers in the theory classes to shape the learning experiences which are integrated between theory and practical.

 The Assessment
Related to assessment, the assessment which is applied is focus on the cognitive assessment (with 20% of pre test, 30% of experiments report, and 50% of final examination), which did not evaluate students’ affective and psychomotor ability. It is practicum, not theoretical in the classroom. Therefore, I realize that I not only have to evaluate my students’ cognitive but also their psychomotor aspect of doing experiments in laboratory. Then, I try applying different approaches of assessment as long as those can measure students’ competencies and learning processes. I evaluate their competencies on cognitive, affective, and psychomotor aspects. Different from other lecturers, I have my own assessment. I also already evaluated my assessment form through action research. Through my assessment, I can ask them the questions before they enter the laboratory or give them the complex sample to evaluate their competencies on solving the problems. The final examination was a performance-based assessment where they had to work in the laboratory to analyse a sample. Therefore, I can easily evaluate their competencies on those three aspects.

 The Waste Problems
I realize that the danger of chemical substances that are used in laboratory. The waste also threat inappropriately, therefore, I apply some strategies in green chemistry approaches which I explore in chapter four. Moreover, the analytical chemistry laboratory was not appropriate for 30 students which is too small and too crowded. Therefore, sometimes, it was very difficult for me to observe all of my students’ activities and to inhale the fresh air.

The list problems above are my reflection on the problems that I found in the unit that I taught. In fact, I am really careful to write these all problems to avoid the ethical issues which related to my institution without ignore the authenticity of my writing. Furthermore, I will explore my students’ voice within the problems and dilemmas of Analytical Chemistry Practicum. It doesn’t mean for supporting and contradicting my views, but I think that it will be powerful to explore other voices in my writing.

Sustainability in Education and Green Chemistry

Green chemistry plays important role in the sustainability environment. However, green chemistry also could integrate to education process to hold up the sustainability in education (Warren, 2001).. Even though, the research studies in green chemistry education are less conducted compared to green chemistry in chemical process, but I believe that education can play an important role to solve environmental problems. Teachers can play important role to support sustainability in education, for example educate the students to solve environmental problems such as reducing the waste in laboratory (Michail, Stamou, G, Stamou, G, 2006). Furthermore, in the laboratory, teachers not only need to be aware of the students’ safety in using chemical substances but also waste management to reduce environmental pollution. Applying green chemistry approach in school laboratory such as teacher can substitute chemical dangerous substances with the less dangerous, use small-scale laboratory equipment, and manage the waste. Those are parts of green chemistry approach, which aim to reduce chemical dangerous substances (Lancaster, 2002). It is also important to increase students’ awareness of environmental problems by involving green chemistry approach in curriculum. Furthermore, the teachers can improve students’ understanding of the importance of environmental sustainability. As a result, the students can participate actively in sustainability through their education.

Furthermore, there are 12 principles of green chemistry which are 1) prevention atom, 2) economy, 3) less hazardous chemical syntheses, 4) designing safer chemicals, 5) safer solvents and auxiliaries, 6) design for energy efficiency, 7) use of renewable feedstocks, 8) reduce derivatives, 9) catalysis, 10) design for degradation, 11) real-time analysis for pollution prevention, 12) inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention.

The philosophy beyond this green chemistry approaches is it is better to prevent the waste than manage the waste. As a result, the process which involves green chemistry approaches should refer to the ideas of prevention the waste. For example, using the less dangerous chemical substances and less quantity will result the less waste.

Furthermore, I found that some research studies in green chemistry such as including green chemistry in curriculum. However, the more interesting and powerful is how this approach could empower the students to active participating in sustainability environment in their society. As a result, education is not only the process of transfer the knowledge of sustainability, but also could stimulate students in agenda for social reconstruction.

Metacognitive Skills

The constructivist theory of learning has important implication on the teaching-learning process in the classroom. It is common that most science education focus on the scientific learning of the learners rather than the growth of learners’ knowledge as holistic individual (Taber, 2006). Using the constructivist theory of learning encourages the students to reflect their own knowledge which is important in the learning process (Bodner, 1986). The meaningful learning environment can be created if the students can relate their preexisting knowledge with the concepts that they have received (Novak & Gowin as cited in Bodner, 1986).

As a teacher, I had experiences related to apply constructivist theory to cope with students’ misunderstanding. There are common researches about misconceptions and students’ understanding in chemistry, because it was a real problem in teaching and learning chemistry. One constructivist theory that I applied is metacognitive skills to help students to understand the concepts. One of strategies which can improve students’ understanding is metacognitive skills. Metacognitive skills allow students to understand their thinking process and concepts (Wellman, 1983 as cited in Pressley, Mac Kinno,& Waller, 1985). Most studies of students’ understanding stated solutions through the use of meaningful learning experiences (Rickey & Stacy, 2000; Treagust, Chittleborough, & Mamiala, 2004). Metacognition gives meaningful learning for students because “metacognition involves, among other things, taking responsibility for own’s learning process” (Anderson Nashon, 2006, p.299). “In metacognition classrooms, learners are expected to ask questions about where they went wrong and to tell the teacher when they don’t understand” (Parkinson, 2004, p.99). Metacognitive skill is important in learning and teaching because awareness one’s thought is important for developing an understanding of ideas and awareness and control of thinking. That has been shown the control of thinking have a significant impact on problem solving success. Therefore, metacognitive skills are important to understanding the ideas and give significant impact on problem solving in chemistry (Rickey, & Stacy, 2000).

According to Winn & Snyder (1998), metacognition process is devided into three steps: monitoring progress in learning, making changes and adapting learning strategies to get the best achievement. Throughout this process, students could do the self-reflection, and self-responsibility within their learning process. According to Flavell, (1979) as cited in Achacoso (2005), metacognition consists of both metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences which related to the self awareness. Therefore, metacognition refers to learners’ automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to understand, control, and manipulate their own cognitive processes. As a result, metacognitive skills are also important in individuals lives, because of they apply the self reflection to solve the problems which is powerful to individual’s empowerment.

There are several instructional tools for promoting metacognition in the classroom which is important to improve the conceptual understanding and problem solving abilities of students to learn chemistry. Some instructional tools which are used in science classroom are concept maps, concept tests, Predict-Observe-Explain (POE) tasks, and the Model-Observe-Reflect-Explain (MORE) thinking frame (Rickey, & Stacy, 2000). The concept map is collection of the concepts links which help student demonstrate their understanding on the relationship between the concepts. Moreover, the concepts tests are constructed to expose students’ view within the concepts throughout the peer discussion. On the other hand, the Predict-Observe-Explain (POE) tasks used to assess students’ understanding of classical mechanic which allow students to make predictions about an event and explain the reasons for their predictions. This POE tasks have been successful in promoting conceptual change in physics (Rickey, & Stacy, 2000). The Model-Observe-Reflect-Explain (MORE) is an adaptation of POE task which provide students with a framework to guide their thinking. The students allow reflecting on the implications of their observations for their model and revising their ideas. According to Rickey, & Stacy, (2000), MORE thinking frame not only develops significantly students’ abilities in metacognition but also help students to understand the fundamental of chemistry concepts, and ability to solve the problems

My Journey in Laboratory Teaching: Self Reflections

My journey in laboratory teaching started in Analytical Chemistry Practicum unit. Analytical chemistry practicum is one unit which equip students to have competences in analyse the chemical substances with both qualitative and quantitative methods. In analytical chemistry practicum, most of my students did not understand the concept beyond the practical work. I found that my students only followed the procedures without understand what they are doing. This unit requires the students to have the analytical thinking level to understand the concepts which most of my students didn’t like it. It was a problem because most of chemistry concepts need an analytical thinking. How can they teach chemistry if they did not like chemistry? Furthermore, I also found the same cases when I taught my students at high school, they did not understand the concepts when they had to solve the problems in chemistry. They only remember the formula but they did not understand the concepts.

In laboratory, it is important for the students to understand the concepts beyond the experiments. I don’t want my students trap in the technical procedures within the meaningless learning experiences. Therefore, I interviewed my students before they did the experiments in laboratory. Throughout the interview, I could explore the thinking process in my students’ mind to understand the concept. It also encourages my students to reflect on their thinking process. The strategy that I applied is metacognitive skills which encourage my students to think about their own thinking. The questions within the interview will help them to find the concepts and analyse the cognitive process in their mind. As a result, they had better understanding. It also encouraged them to ask other questions, they became more curious to understand the concepts. It is an important indicator for me as an educator since I want to encourage my students as a lifelong learner. I could not give all knowledge, but if they are lifelong learners, they will be motivated to develop their learning experiences in their lives. Furthermore, metacognitive skills are not only for laboratory activities but also for other teaching and learning activities which I found useful to apply in my teaching practices. Therefore, one of my research problems focuses on metacognitive skills.

I also found other problems in teaching analytical chemistry practicum which related to sustainability education such as the experimental methods, safety and environmental issues. Even though, chemistry could be one of the causes of environmental problems. But chemistry also could play important role to solve environmental problems and support sustainability of education. Green chemistry, also called sustainable chemistry, is a chemical philosophy within the set of principles in chemical process which reduces and eliminates the use and generation hazardous of chemical substances (Anastas & Warner, 1998). This green chemistry concept helps to reduce waste, effective practicum in laboratory, support safety management, and reduce the cost because of using less quantity of chemical substances. Furthermore, since my journey at SMEC, I found that this approach could be powerful to empower students to active participate in the sustainability of environment. Moreover, this approach also can be applicable in education, such as including green chemistry in curriculum, development of teaching resources, and other laboratory activities. Finally, my journey for applying both metacognitive skills and green chemistry approaches influenced me to explore and think reflectively. I hope that it is not only powerful for me as an educator to improve my teaching practices but also other educators.

My Paradise

The world, where the mind is brightest

The space, where the voice is perceived sound

The land, when the colourful is valued

The paradise, when the sun is warmest

No shade in the colorful of divergence

No edging under the luminous of brainpower

No break within the deviation of heart

No blur in the amazing of scrutiny

There is a run on the boundless stripe

There is a rhyme for the wind

There is a ray for the way

There is a space for the sovereignty

Within the secrets rain

On the touch of grass

The shout of noon

The silent of moon

I would keep on within limitless time