Archive for the ‘My Narratives’ Category

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.


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.

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.