Archive for the ‘Research Project’ Category

Constructivism and Interpretive Research

Constructivism and Interpretive Research

Peter C Taylor

Key Centre for School Science and Mathematics

Curtin University of Technology

Perth Australia

Paper presented at seminar, Science Education Center,

National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei

7 May 1996

Two Faces of Science Education

Janus is the god of Roman mythology who guards doors and gates. As a metaphor,Janus signifies the need for science educators to combine two perspectives: (1) a natural science perspective and (2) a social science perspective. Traditionally,science educators have thought and acted like a one-eyed Janus; their understanding of teaching and learning has been dominated by a natural science perspective. In teacher education and research, traditional ways of knowing about teaching and learning have regarded teachers and students as predictable objects and the ‘scientific method’ has focused only on observable behaviors. If science educators are to be like Janus then they must open both eyes and learn new ways of knowing that take account of teachers’ and students’ human characteristics, especially the ‘uncertain’ activity of the mind (e.g., beliefs, goals, intentions, interpretations, values, dreams).

New Possibilities of Interpretive Research

In science education, research has been governed traditionally by positivist ways of knowing (i.e., research as proving; quantitative measures; standards of validity and reliability; dispassionate reporting). The emergence of interpretive research , with its constructivist ways of knowing, has challenged our assumptions about research and has highlighted the inter-dependency of research questions (what?) and research methodologies (how?). Interpretive research has brought many new possibilities:different types of research questions, new methodologies, diverse ways of portraying our results, and alternative standards for judging the quality of our work. It also has deregulated research and made it more accessible to classroom teachers (i.e., teacher-researchers).

Constructing New Understandings

The activities of the interpretive researcher — forming research questions, making sense of fieldwork experiences, writing the research report — are framed by a constructivist perspective on knowledge1. As an interpretive researcher, I ‘construct’ my own knowledge as I make sense of perplexing experiences. The quality of my knowledge depends on its usefulness (or viability) for enabling me to meet my goals. The quality (i.e., depth, connectedness) of my knowledge depends on: (1) my ability to sustain and resolve my perplexity; (2) the quality of my communicative relationships with others while trying to understand their understandings; and (3) my ability to engage in critical self-reflective thinking about the quality of my knowledge construction process.

Alternative Standards

Interpretive research has 2 sets of standards2 for controlling the quality of research activity: (1) trustworthiness criteria and (2) authenticity criteria. The trustworthiness criteria are parallel to the conventional methodological criteria of scientific research (i.e., validity, reliability) but are characteristic of a constructivist view of knowledge (i.e., multiple experiential realities, researcher’s interpretive activity, researcher as learner). The authenticity criteria are unique inasmuch as they are designed to provide accountability for the rights of all participants to benefit from involvement in the research.

Alternative Genres

An important issue for the interpretive researcher is how to portray new understandings that constitute the results of his/her inquiry. Because constructivism regards knowledge as a state of mind, then reporting one’s knowledge is an act of portrayal rather than an act of representation; rather like a map is a portrayal of a landscape. Exciting new developments mean that interpretive researchers can break with the conventions of scientific research and choose alternative genres for portraying their knowledge. Consistent with the metaphor of researcher as learner, the researcher may choose from a range of authorial voices and tenses, and from a diverse range of rhetoric to portray the richness of his/her fieldwork experiences. In addition to the traditional form of propositional statements, interpretive researchers may choose genres such as autobiography, narrative, story, fiction, or impressionistic tales. Standards for judging the quality of interpretive research writing are drawing increasingly on the field of literary theory. For example, Van Maanen (1988) argues for the text of impressionistic tales 3 to adopt a novelistic form and engage the sensitivites of the reader through dramatic control, striking use of metaphor and imagery, rich characterisation, and building of tension. Thus the writing is judged by its ‘interest’ (does it attract?), ‘coherence’ (does it hang together?), and ‘fidelity’ (does it seem true?).


Denzin & Lincoln (1995). Handbook of qualitative research. Newbury Park: Sage.

Erickson, F. (1986). Qualitative methods in research on teaching. In M.C.

Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 119-159). NY:


Gallagher, J.J. (1991). (Ed.). Interpretive research in science education.Monographs of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 4, 3-17.Guba, E. & Lincoln, Y. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Habermas, J. (1984). A theory of communicative action: Vol 1. Reason and the rationalization of society (T. McCarthy, Trans.). Boston: Beacon Press.

Hardy, M.D. & Taylor, P.C. (in press). Von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism: A critical review. Science & Education.

Pusey, M. (1987). Jurgen Habermas. London: Ellis Horwood & Tavistock.

Taylor, P.C. (1995). College teaching of science and mathematics in Florida: A preliminary foray into the field. Department of Science Education, Florida State University.

Taylor, P.C. (in press). Mythmaking and mythbreaking in the mathematics

classroom. Educational Studies in Mathematics.

Van Maanen, J. (1988). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Von Glasersfeld, E. (1993). Questions and answers about radical constructivism. In K. Tobin (Ed.), The practice of constructivism in science education (pp. 23-38). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Von Glasersfeld, E. (1995). A constructivist approach to teaching. In L. Steffe & J. Gale (Eds.), Constructivism in education (pp. 3-16). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence

Erlbaum. _


In the 1980s, North American and Australian science educators interested in interpretive research were influenced largely by the writings of anthropologist Frederick Erickson (1986). The 1990s has seen dramatic growth in interpretive research activity and in the development of interpretive research as a mature and legitimate educational research paradigm; see, especially, Denzin & Lincoln (1995), Gallagher (1991), Guba & Lincoln (1989). 1 I base my notion of constructivism (Taylor, in press) on a blend of Ernst von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism (Hardy & Taylor, in press; von Glasersfeld, 1993, 1995) and Jurgen Habermas’s theory of communicative action (Pusey, 198?). Radical constructivism is a

powerful post-epistemological framework for understanding the constructed nature of the individual’s knowledge and its relationship to his/her experiential reality, the cognitive dynamics of ‘accommodation’ associated with constructing deeply connected understandings, and the need for alternative standards of judgement for determining the truth status of that knowledge. Habermas’s theory of communicative action extends von Glasersfeld’s theory into the socio-cultural realm by emphasising the central role of language in enabling us to establish meaningful and beneficial communicative relationships with others. Habermas’s theory posits critical self-reflective thinking for deconstructing harmful illusions (emanating from historio-cultural myths) that shape our sense of self and our outlook towards others, and a set of discourse ethics for regulating our communicative relationships in order that we work towards a utopic vision of a democratic society which is free from coercion, manipulation and

the harmful effects of competitive self-serving interests.

2Standards for Judging the Quality of Interpretive Research

(see Chapter 8 of Guba & Lincoln (1989))

1. Trustworthiness (Parallel Methods) Criteria

Credibility: how well represented are the participants’ experiential realities? (prolonged engagement, persistent observation, peer debriefing, negative case analysis progressive subjectivity, member checks) [Internal Validity: how well represented is the objective reality of the real world?]

Transferability: how well are readers able to judge the extent to which this research might be applicabile to their own contexts? (thick description) [External Validity: how well can the results be generalised to other contexts?]

Dependability: how well can the reader trace the (changing) methodological process? (process audit trail) [Reliability: how well can the reader decide whether the study can be repeated?]

Confirmability: to what extent can the data be traced to original sources? (data &minterpretation audit trail) [Objectivity: to what extent is the study free from researcher bias?]

2. Authenticity Criteria

Fairness: how well have participants’ (conflicting) values been represented?

Education: how much have participant’s learned from their participation in the research?

Improvement: to what extent has participation in the research enabled participants to improve their practices?

Empowerment: to what extent have participants been empowered to have a significant role in the research?


What Is the Goal?

I am looking out the lecturers’ room. Since the re-arrangement the university rooms, I am little bit confuse to find out the chemistry lecturer room. Finally, I find it, room 1.6 which I see my colleague read the book. I am still not used to call miss E “my colleague”, because she is my lecturer when I was a student. I remember that I become the lecturer after I finished my study at this university. I knock the door slowly, little bit afraid that I will disturb her concentration. Suddenly, she is looking at the door and looking at me through the window. “ Yuli, just come in, I am waiting for you”. I walk slowly and sit down on the chair in front of her. The lecturer’s rooms is not too big, just convenient for two people discussion. She looks at me and starts talking, “So, you will teach environmental chemistry this semester?”, “ Yes, I do”, I say it slowly. As a junior lecturer, I have responsibility to teach the practicum subject and the senior lecturer will teach theory in the classroom. I just try to make the subject interconnect with the theory at the classroom. Therefore, I meet her today.

Miss E look at her cupboard and take one thin book. “Ok, Yuli, just follow this practicum book, I will teach the theory at the classroom”. She gives me the book, I just remember that this environmental chemistry unit is one unit for “chemistry” students, not for “chemistry education” students. My department has two programs which are chemistry and chemistry education. Chemistry program for the students who want to become chemists, while the chemistry education for students who want to become chemistry teachers. Therefore, I do not know much the learning process in this subject because I graduated from chemistry education program. My department gives me the responsibility for teach this subject in the laboratory because I have experience as an environmental laboratory assistant in the other institution. I just remember the reason why this subject is not designed for the “chemistry education” students, because of becoming the chemistry teacher, they do not need the knowledge how to solve and work with the pollutant such as analysis water pollutant in the laboratory. Since, I was a student, I don’t’ agree with this reason, because I believe that the chemistry teacher has responsibility to give their students the awareness of environmental problems.

My memory is getting flow, until Miss E’ pen fall into the floor. Suddenly, I look at her and ask, “so, what is the goal of this subject in the laboratory? “. Miss E answer my question carefully. I think she remember the way I asked the same question when I was a student. “ ehm, the students have skills to analysis the pollutant, because they will become a chemist, these skills will be important for them, right?, just follow the laboratory procedures, that’s part of curriculum”. Heard the term of “just follow,” “laboratory procedures”, and “curriculum” just make me uncomfortable. This process seems to me as a bible book of chemistry which can’t be changed. I ask Miss E carefully, “so, they just follow the practicum procedure such as cooking book?” .“Don’t be too perfect Yuli, the requirement is they have skills to analysis the pollutant”. “How’s about the students’ awareness of environment? Is it not important?. “ I know it is important, but how you teach that and how you measure that?. I just silent, at that time I really do not know how to answer that questions. “Ok, yuli, the lecture will be started next week, just prepare everything at the laboratory, good luck.”. I come out that room by questioning myself with my own questions, “ how’s about environmental awareness?.

. As a lecturer who teaches pre-service teacher is really challenging for me, because they will become people who educate the young generation. The “horrible” education process can be duplicated by my students which can be the long life impacts for their students later. Therefore, since I came to SMEC, I realize that the learning process in the classroom is not simply “transfer” or “construct” the knowledge, it becomes challenging within students’ empowerment. Since, I graduated from chemistry education, and then becoming chemistry educator, I comprehend that chemistry is not only simply the science subject in the classroom. It could be the subject which can be a tool for the future betterment. I realize that chemistry can contribute the negative impacts into the environment such as the pollution, but chemistry also can contribute for the positive impacts such as medicine. However, it is the common perception that chemistry contributes the negative effects to the environment. It becomes challenging to reserve this perception, not only or the chemists, but also the chemistry educators through the education process.

As a chemistry educator, I realize that the border of education system such chemistry curriculum. I comprehend that the chemistry curriculum is very rigid in my country which there is no room for teacher’s creativity. Moreover, I had experience to write down the chemistry book for secondary school, but I just write it down based on the curriculum which is the requirement of education department, without think about the students’ conception on it. As a result, textbooks are governed by the powerful institution. Within this condition, I would like to start my challenging journey within the critical thinking process about the education system in my country, especially the curriculum. Starting with the concept of curriculum integration which is applied in my country in term of simply integration of the subject which need to be transformed. Within the process of reflection and critical thinking I hope that I could give the contribution for my society.

Furthermore, my concern on green chemistry as one approach which focus on giving contribution for the sustainability environmental. The approach such as applied small quantity of chemical substances, substitution of dangerous chemical substances, and recycling the waste. Those are elements of a green chemistry approach, which are reducing the quantity of dangerous chemical substances. I would like explore this concept in not only term of giving the strategies in teaching chemistry which environmental friendly, but also giving the contribution for empowerment the students about environmental awareness. It will be really challenging for me, since education system in Indonesia tends to discourage the students to be the critical and reflective thinkers. Moreover, I believe that teaching chemistry is not simply constructing the knowledge to pass the examination. Even though, at this time, I am still struggle to find out the way to apply this challenging process within my classroom. Therefore, through this narrative, I try to explore and empower myself to be the critical and reflective chemistry educator.

My Dilemmas on Research Paradigms

I close the SPSS program on my computer after I finished analysis my quantitative data. I start to look at the data and I am confused how to use those data to give valuable information of my students’ perceptions? How those means, standard deviation, and reliability could represent my students’ voice? I am looking back to my interviews and observations transcript and try to find out the ideas on my students’ perceptions. I really want to include postmodern paradigm on it. But, is it possible? Again, could I represent my findings under different paradigms which seems contradict each others? Should I put dialectical thinking on it or just let those be separated? And I am questioning myself and trying to understand how those qualitative data represent on my qualitative data? Read through the numbers make me mystify and look at my interviews and observations data also make me float. I just sit down in front of my computer and doing nothing.

That is my recent experience doing research on post-positivist paradigm. I face the dilemma under my understanding on different paradigms. If it allows combining the paradigms, why I found it is very difficult? Should I stand on one paradigm?. Moreover, within my undergraduate program, I start to learn conducting the action research which bring me the ideas of meaningful interpretation of interviews and observations. Even though, I realize now, it was still shaped by positivist paradigm under the “triangulation” data that I did, but I never had experiences conduct research on positives paradigm and worked on list of quantitative data in education. Therefore, since I explore the limitation of positivist paradigm, I didn’t know how dilemma on it. Now, I can feel it, I don’t want my research study just represent the list of tables which generate the findings on it. I want give more valuable information on it. I don’t want the result studies just became the information without engaging and influence the readers. I comprehend, it is difficult under this paradigm, but I tried to combine it with the interviews and observations. Later, I found that the quantitative data gave me the framework of the findings, but observations, interviews, and my own experiences are more powerful and meaningful information.

I remember when I did my undergraduate and my lecturer just taught me the positivist paradigm under the research methodology unit. As a result, most students worked on quantitative data within their thesis in education. At that time, I started questioning myself how can the students’ learning are isolated from others factors as well as chemistry experiment in laboratory. Relationship and comparison between the certain teaching methods and students’ achievement became the main interest on students’ research. Until now, I just knew that it is still shaped research studies in my university. Since, I learn several paradigms in research project unit, I just speechless, how can my university research studies just stand on the positivist paradigm? I realize my challenges on transforming the existing framework of doing research in my university. Especially, the research under postmodern paradigm will be contradicted with the common perceptions on doing research. “That is not the research”, “how can subjectivity shaped the research?”, “it is not valid”, those comments could be my colleagues and students’ respond if I introduce the research studies under postmodern paradigm. Therefore, I really want to have depth understanding and strong beliefs on this paradigm

Moreover, my experience doing research an autoethnography engages me into the reflection process which stimulates me to envisioning myself not only on my pedagogical practices, but also my individual life. However, it became dilemma for me since I realized I will be back to Indonesia which seems that not support me to “extreme” transform from the existing framework. I realize my dilemma when I worked on quantitative data, but I couldn’t ignore the beliefs of my colleagues and students which recognize these types of data as “accepted” result for research studies. Therefore, I am appreciated the different paradigms which are introduced within my master degree. Those experiences give me the valuable experiences for envisioning myself.

Reflect on Habermas three interests, I plan my “transformation process” within this dilemma. My struggle on the influence of each paradigm provides opportunities apply my dialectical thinking. Even though, I also still questioning myself, is it dialectical thinking or inconsistency? Rather than looking the contradiction between those paradigms, this time I prefer looking them as complementary each others. But, it will be the initiation of my learning process to empower myself. Under the technical interest, I plan to explore the learning environment questionnaire which will be involved the observations and interviews data on it. On this stage, I need to understand the ideas of mixed data on “quantitative and qualitative”. It will represent my initiation process to deal with the reality. Next, under the ‘practical/communicative” interest, I will explore the concept of personal and social constructivism throughout the exploration of students’ alternative conceptions, and then engage them throughout the meaningful learning experiences. Finally, my dream on envisioning my future pedagogical practices to be critical and reflective chemistry educator will be emphasized under the postmodern paradigm which I found it’s very challenging. I will introduce this paradigm to provide my colleagues and my students the other paradigms to view the world. I plan to apply the integration of Habermas three interests point of view within my research studies. I realize the dilemmas on it, but let it be my learning process and let it be my transformation process.

Utilizing Metacognitive Skills and Green Chemistry in Laboratory Activities: Self reflection (Research Proposal)

The laboratory experiment is an important part of teaching and learning chemistry. Experiments in laboratory influence students to have better attitudes toward science and learning outcomes (Parkinson, 2004). However, most students do not like chemistry because of the requirement of analytical and constructive thinking to understand the concepts (Rickey & Stacey, 2000). One of the strategies to encourage students to think analytically is the use of metacognitive skills. Metacognitive skills allow students to understand their thinking process and concepts (Wellman, 1983 as cited in Pressley, Mac Kinno,& Waller, 1985). Therefore, metacognitive skills are important to understanding the ideas and give significant impact on problem solving in chemistry (Rickey, & Stacy, 2000). Furthermore, in the laboratory, Teachers plays an important role to environmentally educate their students (Michail, Stamou,& Stamou, 2006). For example, using 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. Therefore, I found that both metacognitive skills and green chemistry that I used improve students’ understanding in chemistry concepts and sustainability education in my laboratory. I will investigate those findings and use narrative to interpret the meaning and investigate my self-reflection.

Research Problem

The influence of metacognitive skills and green chemistry to improve students’ understanding and sustainability education in laboratory

Research Questions

1. How can metacognitive skills and green chemistry approaches be promoted in laboratory activities?

2. How can metacognitive skills improve students’ understanding of chemical concepts?

3. How can green chemistry approaches promote sustainability in laboratory experiments?

Research Method

This autoethnographic research will focus on the collection of descriptive data to explore the “dynamic picture” of the interpretation (Burns, 1996). Therefore, this research will use the methods which of narrative inquiry, interviews, and document analysis.

1. Narrative inquiry

“Narrative inquiry have at least three assumptions which are convey meanings, practical experiences, and constitutive” (Ospina & Dodge, 2005, p.414). Therefore, I will use narrative inquiry to describe my personal experiences and social interaction (Connelly & Candinin, 1988 as cited in Creswell, 2005). Narrative inquiry invites the researchers “into the research process as people with a prespective and wisdom that are worthy of hearing (Ospina & Dodge, 2005). According to Bauman (1986) as cited in Cohen, Manion, and Morrison, (2000, p.303), “stories are oral literature whose meanings forms and functions are situationally rooted cultural contexts, scenes events which give meaning to action”. Writing an ethnography also compel me “… into new and more intensive kind of analysis” (Burns, 1996, p.305). The story of personal experience will be interesting and live interaction with the readers. I also use others people story related to my research. This narrative inquiry will answer all three of my research questions. I will describe how both metacognitive and green chemistry approaches are promoted in my laboratory.

2. E-mail Interview

Email interview is a usefuI method to collect the data, especially from people in different place. Email interviews include “collecting open-ended data through interview with individuals using computers and internet” (Creswell, 2005. p.216). Through this method, I will find out other people’s opinion such as my colleagues, analytical chemistry lecturers, students, my assistants, and laboratory staff. I plan to give them email interviews to support my narrative about the findings on applying metacognitive and green chemistry. The most difficult part though is that they are all in Indonesia. I do not have to asking formal institution to explore their comments. I can ask them individually to give their comments. The best I can do here is asking them to send the data by email or post.

3. Document Analysis

Another information source is documents which include “public and private records that qualitative researchers obtain about a site or participants in a study” (Creswell, 2005, p.219). Therefore, I will analyse some official documents such as a practicum book and students’ experiment report to support my research. I get procedures from a practicum book which related to green chemistry approach such as changed the methods with less quantity of chemical substances, substituted dangerous chemical substances, recycled process, and managed the waste. The data from the practicum book will show the improvement of procedures that I have done. In addition, I will get data from students’ experiment report related to the results that my students found from experiments using green chemistry approaches. The data of experiments’ result will show that using green chemistry approaches more effective and less dangerous than previous approaches.

Habermas Three Interests


In 2001, everybody was shocked, 20 students were poisoned in the organic chemistry laboratory. They went to a clinic at the university, and then the doctor said that the pupils of their eyes could not respond to the light. Some lecturers were blaming the students who did not work carefully, but on the other hand, the students were blaming the facilities that were less safe and also the methods in organic chemistry which used very dangerous substances. Some people from the university’s newspapers interviewed the students, the lecturer, and the laboratory staff, but they were blaming each other. One week later, the case was closed. The students were getting better but there was no change in the facilities and methods in the organic laboratory. I was one of the poisoned students, the one who became a chemistry lecturer in that university 4 years later, and the one who was disappointed with that accident. The one who hopes it will never happen again in her life as a chemistry lecturer.

Four years later, I entered the analytical chemistry laboratory, which is next to the organic chemistry lab. As a new lecturer, I had responsibility to teach the analytical chemistry practicum. I love chemistry but I did not realize that chemistry would be dangerous for me. Chemistry is very close to my life. I studied in the senior analyst chemistry high school that trained the students to become chemistry analysts. I studied only chemistry and worked in the laboratory everyday. In the university, I studied chemistry education for four years. Then, I taught chemistry in high school for two years before I became a chemistry lecturer. I really know how to be a student who had to study chemistry everyday, to be a teacher who had to teach chemistry that most students did not like, to be a chemistry lecturer who has to educate my students as good chemistry teachers.

My journey from a poisoned student to a chemistry lecturer enthused me to reflect on three of the cognitive interests of Habermas as described by Grundy (1987, p.10) which are technical, practical and emancipatory. I have a tendency to be a liberator in the emancipatory interest who likes to transform and evaluate the conditions (Stablein & Nord, 1985, p.18). At present, I tend to solve problems that I face in teaching and learning process by applying action research methods, such as reflection and actions. Furthermore, as a communicator in the practical interest, I am interested in building learning processes as meaningful activities for my students (Grundy, 1987, p.9). However, I cannot make many changes in systems, rules and facilities, for example: education system, curriculum content and objectives. Therefore, in this condition I became a reproducer in the technical interest who always used all of the instruments to facilitate my teaching and neglected my subject as “worth knowing” (Henderson & Kesson, 2004). In this narrative, I would like to illustrate my journey as a reproducer in the technical interest and a communicator in the practical interest and a liberator in the emancipatory interest. The narrative guides me to think reflectively and critically as an educator.

Where am I?

a. In pursuit of the technical interest

As a new lecturer, who had a bad experience in the laboratory, I had expectations that my students will not have the same experience. In the university, my lecturers taught me the theory of laboratory safety and management and the dangers of chemical substances but it often did not apply in practice. Therefore, I wanted to apply the theory to practice to avoid the accident that happened to me. According to Kyriacou (1997) (as cited in Mulholland, 2003, p. 880), it is difficult for a beginning educator not only to apply theory to practice but also to develop a new perspective. Furthermore, Mackler (2005, p.2) claims, “a false assumption that there is theory-pure, untainted and rationally perfect-and there is life-messy, unpredictable, and in need of repair.” However, that false assumption has to be overturned. Educators have to use their creativeness to shape the wonderful theory into practice. Even though, in my experience as a new lecturer, difficulties in relating theory and practice influenced me to use the technical interest in all my teaching:

My lecturer comes to my laboratory and she told me, “Uwie to teach practicum of analytical chemistry, you have to use this practicum book. There are the practicum objectives and the procedures. Your students have to finish all of the experiments within one semester. Don’t forget for the assessment, you have to use this card.” I just see the book, the same book that I used when I was a student. The same procedures that caused students poisoned. I also looked at the card. The same card, (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. I not only have to evaluate my students’ cognitive but also their psychomotor aspect of doing experiments in laboratory. However, at that time I did not have any opportunity to change the methods. I did it for a couple weeks, the same books, procedures, and assessments.

One day, we had a practicum on determination of iron in water, my student asked me “Why do we add 25 mL of acid sulphate solution, (he showed me the practicum book), is it right?”. A simple question 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 had to use was more than necessary. At that time, I neither did nor knew what I should do. The book was already published. If I wanted to change it, I had to do experiments to prove my ideas in experimental methods were precise.

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.

I do not like to be a reproducer but sometimes I have to. For example, I cannot change the curriculum content and objectives. The results were more important than the process. Therefore, I was likely to focus on a “product oriented curriculum” (Taylor & Williams, 1992, p.5). At the first time, I thought that I had to finish covering the curriculum content because it was the requirement as a lecturer. Furthermore, the common perception is that the indicator of “a good university” is the percentage of students who have the highest score of GPA (Grade Point Average). Furthermore, most of the employers in Indonesia use GPA to select and recruit new employees. Therefore, because of this, some lecturers only focus on improving students’ academic outcomes not on the teaching and learning process. However, I do not want to be trapped with this kind of mentality. I believe that I can make changes in my role as a lecturer who teaches students to become good chemistry teachers, not just giving them good credentials that improve their employment opportunities.

b. In pursuit of the practical interest

I realized that my mistake was only serving the technical interest in my teaching. My students had meaningless experience doing laboratory activity for they just uncritically followed prescribed procedures. They did not understand the concepts because I did not shape chemistry as a meaningful subject. I want my students to believe what I believe, that is, chemistry is chemistry, one truth, and one perception. My journey as a reproducer influenced me to learn about its effects on my students’ understanding. Therefore, afterward I jumped up into a practical interest. In my classroom, I tried to solve problem and change strategy to create meaningful learning situation (Grundy, 1987, p.13) and communicate the concepts of chemistry using varied strategies, so that it will make an interesting topic for my students. I attempted to interpret the meaning of interaction in the learning process (Stablein & Nord, 1985, p.16). Creating a poesis which is “soulful, expressive aspect creation rather than mere skill or technique” (Henderson, 2004, p.50). There were the metacognitive strategies that I applied to create the meaningful learning process for my student:

Another day, I tried to evaluate my students’ understanding of concepts. It is common to research about misconceptions and students’ understanding in chemistry, because it is a real problem in teaching and learning chemistry. I remember the time when I asked my student about the function of some chemical substances in qualitative analysis of copper.

Me : Why should we add Sodium Hydroxide to that copper solution?”

Student: “To identify copper which results in Copper Hydroxide with blue precipitation?

Me : “Can we change it with other base?”

Student : “No”

Me : “Why?”

Student : “Maybe we can change Sodium Hydroxide with all bases”

Me : “Why?”

Student : “Because all bases have hydroxide to precipitate Copper”

Me :”So, Can I use Ammonium Hydroxide?”

Student : “Yes, because it has hydroxide”

Me :“No, It can not, Ammonium Hydroxide with copper results in an unstable precipitation, It will be diluted and change to a complex solution”

Student : “I forget, I do not know”

I was shocked that my students did not understand what they did in the laboratory. They were similar to a “machine” that only added the chemical substances without understanding those functions. I tried to ask more students and they often could not answer the questions that related to experimental concepts. In analytical chemistry practicum, most of them did not understand the reason for adding the substances; they would only read the procedures then perform them. Most of them did not like chemistry because of the requirement of analytical thinking to understand the concepts. It was a big problem because most chemistry concepts need analytical thinking. How can they teach chemistry if they do not like chemistry? Furthermore, I also found the same cases when I taught my students at high school, they did not understand why they had to use certain formula to solve problems in chemistry. They only remember the formula but they did not understand the concepts.

I remember the strategy that my teacher at senior high school used. My teacher always asked me the questions if I want to do experiments in the laboratory. Indeed, I could not enter the laboratory if I could not answer my teachers’ questions. I had to go out from laboratory and find the answers. I could not enter the laboratory until I found those answers. The questions were used to examine students’ understanding. This strategy encouraged me to prepare myself before I came to the laboratory. Therefore, I got used to finding out the concept of the experiments. It was 6 years ago but I still remember all the experimental concepts.

I tried to apply this strategy to my students. I asked the question before they did the experiments in laboratory. As a result, they had better understanding. It will also encourage them to ask other questions, they will become more curious to understand the concepts. It is an important indicator for me as an educator since I want to encourage my students as learners. I can not give all the knowledge, but if they are good learners they will be motivated to learn everything. Later, I knew the strategy that my teacher used was metacognitive skills. The strategy is to encourage people to think about their own thinking.

In chemistry, studies of students’ understanding state the solutions through giving meaningful learning experiences (Treagust, Chittleborough, & Mamiala, 2004; Rickey & Stacy, 2000). Metacognition gives meaningful learning for students because “metacognition involves among other things taking responsibility for one’s own learning process” (Anderson & Nashon, 2006, p.299). Therefore, metacognitive skills are important to understanding the ideas and give significant impact on problem solving in chemistry (Rickey, & Stacy, 2000, p.195). To satisfy my practical interest, these metacognitive strategies help me to shape meaningful learning process and students’ understanding.

c. In pursuit of the emancipatory interest

Becoming a liberator with an emancipatory interest is difficult for me as a new lecturer. At that moment, I thought that I am not empowered to do the improvements since my fellow chemistry lecturers are my former lecturers and showing respect to your mentors is expected. According to Habermas, emancipation is “independence from all that is outside the individual (Grundy, 1987, p.13). It concerns “human autonomy and responsibility” (Stablen & Nord, 1985, p.16). However, I started my experience with this interest by critical thinking. Should I apply all of the prescribed experimental procedures? Do I have to use these assessments? Could I improve and create the changes?

According to Grundy (1987), as cited in Taylor and Williams (1992, p.6), “emancipatory requires the development of a critical conscious.” It is concerned with “praxis-action that is informed by reflection with the aim to emancipate” (Kincheloe, 1991, as cited in Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000, p.29). In my teaching, I tend to apply action research process in the classroom. In terms of action research (McNiff, 1997):

Action research is a term, which refers to a practical way of looking at your own work to check that it is as you would like it to be. Because action research is done by you, the practitioner, it is often referred to as practitioner based research; and because it involves you thinking about and reflecting on your work, it can also be called a form of self-reflective practice.

“A form of action research operating in an emancipatory mode” (Taylor & Williams, 1992, p.7), educator as a researcher is more effective to improve the environment. Therefore, I am more like a liberator who tends to criticize and change the conditions and who uses reflective thinking to improve it. According to Bain, Ballantyne, Mills, and Lester (2002, p.10), “reflection is an intrinsically good and desirable aspect of professional development.” These were my experiences in doing some reflective thinking and making improvements in my laboratory activities:

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. A week later, when my students did the experiment, 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.

Furthermore, the other problem that I found in analytical chemistry practicum was safety. Analytical chemistry laboratory was not appropriate for 30 students. It was too 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.

I was also concerned with the waste from my laboratory within safety and 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 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.

Furthermore, for both safety and environmental issues, 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”.

My critical reflections taught me that I could make the improvements. Compared to a teacher, a lecturer has more power 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, substitution of dangerous chemical substances, and recycling the waste. Those are elements of a green chemistry approach, which are reducing the quantity of dangerous chemical substances (Lancaster, 2002, p.5). It is also important to increase students’ awareness of environmental problems by involving green chemistry approach in the curriculum.

I realized that the changes will affect the practicum, but I am still concerned about students’ skill to work in the laboratory. The advantages of applying green chemistry are safety and sustainability in resource utilization in chemistry education. Furthermore, I gave the empowerment to my students to have creativity to change the methods. “Students’ empowerment through emancipating them from ideologies and discriminatory practices” is the aim of critical pedagogy (Woods, 1996, p. 127). They think critically about the chemistry concepts beyond the laboratory activities. They will discuss with me if the procedures have the same concepts, I will allow them to do it.

Related to assessment, 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 card. 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.

Finally, my self-reflection on the three interests is an interesting journey for me. For I not only realize better who am I but also realize that I already have made changes, which motivated me to invent other innovations. Meaningful learning, learning process are more important for me. However, at the moment, I cannot make many major changes to systems, rules and facilities, for example: standard of national examination, education system, and curriculum content and objectives. Nevertheless, sometime in the future, I envision myself as a decision maker in education. Many changes that I want to make in my country, such as learning process, teacher competences, assessments, and I will not anymore ignore the students’ achievement. I hope those three interests will help me to develop my professional practice.

I Want to…..

I want to be a bird, which can fly in the beautiful sky, have the freedom to go and do everything, but the bird still can find the way home

I want to be an ant, which can cooperate with their community in wonderful ways. Helping each other, showing the way to find food with formic acid, but the ant still can find the way home

I want to be a bee, which can make useful substances like honey, have a handy way to help the flowers everywhere, but the bee still can find the way home

I do not want to be a stone, just standing, doing nothing, with other life creations trampling on it, the stone being simply silent. If I have to be a stone, I want to be an artistic stone, a statue, which people are amazed about. Even though the statue cannot find the way home, but it can give happiness to others.

If you want to improve, help, and appreciate something, just do it. Motivate yourself for it. Maybe others need it more than you do, and if you do not do for it today, may be tomorrow can be too late. So, just do it.

(Inspiration from the book “A Methodology of Heart,” Ronald J. Pelias, 2004, and my friend’s email)