Using Guiding Questions to Promote Scientific Practices in Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratories

Ruomei Gao, Judith Lloyd, Bright U. Emenike, Duncan Quarless, Youngjoo Kim, Mary E. Emenike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Engaging students in scientific practices has become an important pedagogical component in STEM education, although its implementation in laboratories is still emerging. This paper uses three types of guiding questions to facilitate scientific practices in introductory and analytical chemistry laboratories. What makes our instructional model different from other developments is that certain types of scientific practices can be promoted by incorporating guiding questions into traditional laboratories, namely, type I prelaboratory questions for experimental design and implementation, type II postlaboratory guiding questions for knowledge construction, and type III postlaboratory guiding questions for experimental error analysis. Answers to these guiding questions were assessed for students' correct chemical knowledge and procedure design (type I) and for their presentation of the three key components of an argument: evidence, justifications, and claims (types II and III). A significant improvement in student score on types II and III questions and a modest upgrading on type I questions were observed as students progressed through Introductory Chemistry Laboratories to Analytical Chemistry Lab. Type I prelaboratory guiding questions incorporate a higher level of inquiry than types II and III postlaboratory guiding questions, thus more practices are needed to master advanced skills. Student performance on guiding questions improved throughout the semester in analytical chemistry laboratories. Students rated their experiences and helpfulness of guiding questions positively. This instructional model can be adopted in other science laboratories for setting up explicit goals and prioritizing useful information without changing the structure of curricula.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3731-3738
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 14 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Education


  • Communication/Writing
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Inquiry-Based/Discovery Learning
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Problem Solving/Decision Making
  • Upper-Division Undergraduate


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