Can an augmented reality smartphone based application assist students in developing scientific laboratory skills and enhance their conceptual understanding in a problem based learning environment?
The practical laboratory session has been, and continues to be, central to science education (Hofstein & Lunetta, 2004) Undergraduate students in traditional laboratories follow a pre-determined method to achieve a pre-determined outcome and typically communicate these findings in a standard laboratory report (Dunne & Ryan, 2012). The depth of undergraduate learning here is questionable as students gain limited exposure to key elements of scientific laboratory work such as experimental design, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity (McDonnell, et al., 2007). Adaption and adoption of alternative pedagogies, such as problem based learning, and integration of technology-enhanced learning, such as augmented reality, can offer a more student-centred, research-orientated approach to laboratory teaching.
In this intrinsic case study, a final year undergraduate student, acting as a near-peer change agent, designed a single problem based laboratory session for first year students. Technology was integrated to enhance the learning experience whilst simultaneously developing independent, ‘just-in-time’ laboratory technique learning. To enhance student independence and preparation, Aurasma was integrated as the key enabling technology. This technology permits simple augmented reality development, which aligned to the laboratory technique developed in this case study.
In order to address the research question, a pre-intervention survey was designed, piloted and conducted by the undergraduate learner-researcher in order to determine the level of preparation typically carried out by the first year students (n=18) in this case study. Results from this survey were analysed by quantitative and qualitative methods and were used to design and develop the most appropriate augmented reality resources to support the first year undergraduate students as part of a problem-based, scenario-contextualised, laboratory. The scenario that formed the basis of the problem addressed a key analytical technique that is commonly examined as part of an introductory chemistry module in the first year of most undergraduate science programmes. This offered a relevant testing ground for this augmented reality enhanced pedagogy.
After completing the augmented reality enhanced laboratory; participants were re-surveyed to gauge their perceived enhanced understanding and skill development. A discussion forum provided rich data that was analysed and thematically coded using the Braun and Clarke (2006) six-step approach to qualitative data analysis. Further sources of data included a researcher reflective diary and supervisory meeting logbook. Iterative coding and analysis were carried out until convergence on data saturation was achieved. In the proposed presentation an interactive demonstration of Aurasma, along with a discussion of the findings from this intrinsic case study, will be offered and underpinned by the contemporary literature. Finally, conclusions will be drawn and recommendations for practice locally and more widely will be suggested.
Dunne, J., & Ryan, B.J. (2012). IJAP, 1, Article 2.
Hofstein A., & Lunetta, V. (2004). Sci.Ed, 88, 28-54.
McDonnell, C., et al. (2007). CERP, 8, 130 – 139.