Students' cognitive focus during a chemistry laboratory exercise: Effects of a computer-simulated prelab

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Abstract

To enhance the learning outcomes achieved by students, learners undertook a computer-simulated activity based on an acid–base titration prior to a university-level chemistry laboratory activity. Students were categorized with respect to their attitudes toward learning. During the laboratory exercise, questions that students asked their assistant teachers were used as indicators of cognitive focus. During the interviews, students' frequency and level of “spontaneous” use of chemical knowledge served as an indicator of knowledge usability. Results suggest that the simulation influenced students toward posing more theoretical questions during their laboratory work and, regardless of attitudes, exhibiting a more complex, correct use of chemistry knowledge in their interviews. A more relativistic student attitude toward learning was positively correlated with interview performance in both the control and treatment groups. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 1108–1133, 2007

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