Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gabriela C. Weaver

Committee Chair

Gabriela C. Weaver

Committee Member 1

Trevor R. Anderson

Committee Member 2

David A. Sears

Committee Member 3

Brenda M. Capobianco


Pilarz, Matthew. Ph.D., Purdue University, December 2013. Implementation of a Research-Based Lab Module in a High School Chemistry Curriculum: A Study of Classroom Dynamics. Major Professor: Gabriela C. Weaver.

For this study, a research-based lab module was implemented in two high school chemistry classes for the purpose of examining classroom dynamics throughout the process of students completing the module. A research-based lab module developed for use in undergraduate laboratories by the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE) was modified and implemented in two high school settings. This module consisted of four phases: Skill Building, Experimental Design, Independent Research, and Results and Poster Presentation. Classroom dynamics were studied by considering the students' and teachers' perceptions of their experiences during the completion of the module and by examining the interactions between students and teachers that took place throughout the module. The results reveal that there are shifts in classroom dynamics throughout the four phases of the module. In the Skill Building phase there was a great deal of dependence on the teacher for help in completing tasks. However, there is a slight contrast to what the students and teachers reported about their experiences during this phase. The teachers describe the students as being very dependent on them and asking questions constantly during the Skill Building experiments. The students report that they tried to figure out their problems with their lab partners and students in other lab groups before asking the teacher for help. The teachers perceived that students came to them immediately for help and did not realize that students were coming to them as sort of a last resort when they could not solve problems on their own. In the Experimental Design phase the students and teachers both report that the lab groups were working together as groups to design their experiments, and rarely had interactions with anyone outside of their lab group. For the Independent Research phase both students and teachers report that lab groups worked very independently of any outside assistance and that they began to use a division of labor strategy within their group to complete tasks. This also is the case for the Results and Poster Presentation phase of the module.

In examination of the student-student and student-teacher interactions, a comparison is made between the Skill Building and Independent Research phases of the module. During the Skill Building phase, students tend to be less confident in their work and their lab partners work as compared to the Independent Research phase. Lab groups also tended to be more dependent on seeking help from outside of their lab group when completing experiments in the Skill Building phase as compared to the Independent Research phase. One finding that contrasts these is that students are dependent on their teacher for help when completing data analysis calculations. The overall results show that classroom dynamics shift throughout the completion of a research-based lab module and that a community develops in the classroom that mirrors the scientific community.