Incorporation of Socio-scientific Content into Active Learning Activities

Monday, 15 December 2014
Daniel B King, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, United States, Jennifer E Lewis, University of South Florida Tampa, Tampa, FL, United States, Karen Anderson, Madison College, Madison, WI, United States, Doug Latch, Seattle University, Seattle, WA, United States, Susan Sutheimer, Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT, United States, Gail Webster, Guilford College, Greensboro, NC, United States and Richard Moog, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA, United States
Active learning has gained increasing support as an effective pedagogical technique to improve student learning. One way to promote active learning in the classroom is the use of in-class activities in place of lecturing. As part of an NSF-funded project, a set of in-class activities have been created that use climate change topics to teach chemistry content. These activities use the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) methodology. In this pedagogical approach a set of models and a series of critical thinking questions are used to guide students through the introduction to or application of course content. Students complete the activities in their groups, with the faculty member as a facilitator of learning. Through assigned group roles and intentionally designed activity structure, process skills, such as teamwork, communication, and information processing, are developed during completion of the activity.

Each of these climate change activities contains a socio-scientific component, e.g., social, ethical and economic data. In one activity, greenhouse gases are used to explain the concept of dipole moment. Data about natural and anthropogenic production rates, global warming potential and atmospheric lifetimes for a list of greenhouse gases are presented. The students are asked to identify which greenhouse gas they would regulate, with a corresponding explanation for their choice. They are also asked to identify the disadvantages of regulating the gas they chose in the previous question. In another activity, where carbon sequestration is used to demonstrate the utility of a phase diagram, students use economic and environmental data to choose the best location for sequestration.

Too often discussions about climate change (both in and outside the classroom) consist of purely emotional responses. These activities force students to use data to support their arguments and hypothesize about what other data could be used in the corresponding discussion to support their position. In this presentation, we will present examples of the socio-scientific components of several activities, and discuss the challenges associated with incorporating socio-scientific components into content-based class activities.