A Student Designed Curriculum: Developing a Project-Based Introductory Chemistry Laboratory Course

Presenter: Emily Navarrete

Research Category: Interdisciplinary Topics, Centers and Institutes
Student Type: Undergraduate
PI: Vasiliki Lykourinou
Award Winner Category: Interdisciplinary Topics

The project, Creating a student-developed, project-based, introductory chemistry laboratory curriculum, gives undergraduates an active role in their education by providing a setting in which they must design, optimize, and implement their own protocols. Stepping away from the “mix-and-record” methodology employed across universities for decades, the introductory chemistry laboratory course is designed to make students think critically through team-focused, research-based experimentation. Given only a goal, set materials, and a skeletal procedure, students must work as scientists to execute an experiment and debate their decisions against those of other teams. While environmental responsibility has been deemed a priority of the scientific community, it is missing from most modern day curricula. To address this gap between theory and practice, research from Northeastern and other universities that employ The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry have been integrated into every learning module. To further reinforce this goal, students are required to apply these practices in the lab when performing reactions, toxicology analysis, and approaching waste. The final component of this project is the creation of an organic turnover mechanism, in which students, after course completion, are invited to join the development team so they may further modify the existing curriculum. Students’ perspectives, often overlooked in academics, are a vital resource in the optimization of learning. Their unique viewpoints are imperative to evaluating new methodologies, experiments, and topics. In all, this project embodies experiential learning and is truly on the vanguard of education research, pushing students to become better learners rather than better students.