A critical look at safety instruction in the general chemistry laboratory
Broussard, Hayley Patricia
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Over the past two decades, general and organic chemistry classrooms have incorporated active learning techniques to replace the long-held tradition of “sage on the stage” lectures. These active learning strategies have included, but are not limited to, classroom response systems (“clickers”), think-pair-share, discovery-based activities, and peer teaching. When implemented correctly, these strategies enforce meaningful learning, which is the integration of newly learned material with previously learned concepts. After students integrate these concepts, they can then be used to solve unfamiliar problems. The active learning methods instructors employ in chemistry classrooms are not yet used in safety instruction in the laboratory. The purpose of this work is to understand how teaching safety in a passive manner is affecting the ability of general chemistry students to minimize risk in unfamiliar safety situations. The study began with observations to not only note current missteps students are making in response to risky situations but also to observe how the TAs choose to present safety material in pre-laboratory lectures. The next step was to interview general chemistry students and TAs to acquire their technical knowledge of safety guidelines as well as the steps they would take to minimize risk in specific situations. The underlying themes in the observations and interviews built the assessment, the results of which give valuable information about students’ ability to minimize risk after two semesters of passive safety instruction in general chemistry laboratory.