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Utilising metacognitive skills and green chemistry for self reflection: An autoethnographic researchYuli Rahmawati
Curtin University of Technology
This autoethographic research represents my reflections on applying metacognitive skills and green chemistry approaches in the teaching laboratory. It also includes my reflections within my education journey as a learner and educator. Metacognitive skills and green chemistry approaches are powerful for creating meaningful learning experiences for students and sustainability in education, thereby empowering my students to participate actively in society. Through self reflection, I comprehend that the subjectivity of my voice is shaping my writing. Therefore, the quality standards for this research - representation, trustworthiness and authenticity, critical reflexivity, and praxis - guide my narrative reflections. For writing criteria, orientation, strength, depth and richness are helping me to write in a way that engages my readers and empowers myself as a teacher educator. I have used impressionistic writing, such as poems, stories, and dialogues, to represent my reflections as well as voices of students and colleagues which help me to reflect on my teaching practice. This research gives me the opportunity to learn to become a critical and reflective educator and to re-envision my pedagogical practice.
Chemistry and me
Thinking through the electron configurations
Trapping into the concept of invisible matter
Quantum mechanical model, ionisation energy, periodic table
Shaping the way of learning, thinking, and teaching
Struggling to accomplish the activation energy
Changing the pressure and the state
Dealing with the polarity of other powers
Reaching the orbital of my mind
Coagulate my understanding into the triple phases
Indicate my brain colour into the neutral point
Guide my way to reach the balance reactions
Bring my voices into the equivalent process
Precipitate my vogue through the journey
Create the new coloured of mind
Powerful, beautiful, energetic
To be a new chemistry learner, teacher, and thinker
The poem represents my conscious of chemistry as an integral part of my life. I have studied chemistry since I was a student at high school in 1995. I studied in The Secondary Analyst Chemistry High School that trained students to become chemistry analysts. At that school, the percentage of chemistry subject is 80%. As a result, most of my time was devoted to studying chemistry and doing practical work in the laboratory. My journey as a learner at this school influenced the way I learn and teach. Then, I studied chemistry education at State University of Jakarta (Universitas Negeri Jakarta). I started my journey to learn more on pedagogy in this university. However, becoming a teacher was not my goal. Even though I am a graduate of Bachelor of Chemistry Education, and both of my parents are teachers, I was still not inclined to become a teacher. At that time, I wanted to have a good profession in a company which is highly paid. I thought that having a good profession and becoming rich are indicators of a successful life.
Becoming a teacher without motivation proved to be a tough journey for me. Even though all units in my university involve the skills and knowledge to be a teacher, it didn't encourage me to have willingness as a teacher. My journey as a lecturer started in 2004, when I was selected as a lecturer. I taught analytical chemistry in the laboratory for one year. This research is a reflection upon my experiences when I applied metacognitive skills and green chemistry in my laboratory teaching. Analytical chemistry practicum is one unit which equips students with competences in analysing chemical substances via both qualitative and quantitative methods. In analytical chemistry practicum, I found that most of my students did not understand the concept beyond the practical work. They only followed the procedures without understanding what they were doing. This unit requires the students to have the analytical thinking to understand the concepts which most of my students didn't like. It was a problem because most of chemistry concepts need an analytical thinking. How can they teach chemistry if they did not like chemistry? Furthermore I also found the same case when I taught my students at high school: they did not understand the concepts when they had to solve the problems in chemistry.
Moreover, I realise that my journey as a learner to a chemistry lecturer shaped by the technical interest. As a reproducer of technical interest, I shaped my teaching practices within the measurement of academic achievement and neglected pedagogical ways that turn my subject as "worth knowing" (Henderson & Kesson, 2004). Moreover, I also realise the border hegemony of the standardised system related factors which influence my pedagogical practices. This experience influenced me to view curriculum as content and subject matter, thereby focusing on a "product oriented curriculum" (Taylor & Williams, 1992, p.5). Then my journey shapes me to think that I could create the meaningful learning experiences for my students. The journey becomes more meaningful when I engage with the learning experiences at SMEC (Science Mathematics Education Centre) at Curtin University of Technology which encourages me to empower my students to be active participant in social reconstruction of educational landscapes. I realise within my unripe journey, that I am trying to embrace the process of transforming myself
I used metacognitive skills to help students to understand the concepts by applying P-O-E (Predict-Observe-Explain). There are some strategies in metacognitive skills which are concepts tests, concept map, and P-O-E (Predict-Observe-Explain) (Rickey, & Stacy, 2000). According to Gunstone (1995) P-O-E is the one of the strategies arising from constructivist paradigm. In this strategy, teachers ask their students to predict through their prior knowledge, and then observe the reality. Afterward, the students should be able to explain the differences between their prediction and observation. Furthermore, in the laboratory, students should know the principles of experiments. Therefore, I asked the questions before they did the experiments in laboratory. The questions helped them to find the concepts and analyse the cognitive process in their mind. Through the practical work, they found what actually happened. Then, I asked them to explain the differences between the prediction and observation. Even though, sometimes, they found there were similar, but they still should be able to explain the reasons. I found this strategy helped me to monitor my students' learning process, especially their misunderstanding of chemistry concepts. I remember the time when I applied metacognitive skills by asking my students about the function of some chemical substances in analysis qualitative of copper.
|Me||Why should we add sodium hydroxide in that copper solution?|
|Student||To identify copper which result copper hydroxide with blue precipitation?|
|Me||Can we change it with other base?|
|Student||May be we can change sodium hydroxide with all base|
|Student||Because all base have hydroxide to precipitate copper|
|Me||So, can I use ammonium hydroxide?|
|Student||Yes, because it have hydroxide|
|Me||Ammonium hydroxide with copper result unstable precipitation, It will be diluted and change to complex solution|
|Student||I do not know I am sorry|
|I was shocked that my students did not understand what they did in the laboratory. They were similar to a "machine" that only added the chemical substances without understanding those functions. I tried to ask more students and they often could not answer the questions that related to experimental concepts. In analytical chemistry practicum, most of them did not understand the reason for adding the substances; they would only read the procedures, then perform them.|
It was not the first time I asked my students. They often could not answer the questions by using analytical thinking. In analytical chemistry practicum, most of them did not understand the reason for adding the substances; they would only read the procedures then did it. In laboratory, students had to know the principles of experiments. Therefore, I asked the questions before they did the experiments in laboratory. Throughout the questions on POE, I could gauge the thinking process in my students' mind to understand the concept. It also encourages my students to reflect on their thinking process. The questions on metacognitive skills helped them to find the concepts and analyse the cognitive process in their mind. As a result, they had better understanding. It also encouraged them to ask other questions, they became more curious to understand the concepts. It is an important indicator for me as an educator since I want to encourage my students as a lifelong learner. I could not give all knowledge, but if they are lifelong learners, they will be motivated to develop their learning experiences in their lives. Furthermore, metacognitive skills are not only for laboratory activities but also for other teaching and learning activities which I found useful to apply in my teaching practices. I put one poem to describe my students' journey in my unit which I found it useful for reflection on my teaching practices.
Walking through a tough journey in this unit
Spending so much time, studying and understanding the concepts
Working in the laboratory without understanding what am I doing?
Writing the reports within the long paragraph and the many pages
It is really meaningless and useless
Why I should I do all these things?
What is the useful of this unit in my life?
Who is shaping the learning experiences in this unit?
When will be I free from the complexity of this unit?
Where I should go to release these things?
I really want to end this journey
The light comes out from the dark corridor
Helping me to find out my ways
Understanding the journey within the thinking reconstruction
Helping me to understand my grey brain
The integrated journey helps me understand my ways
Cooperating and collaborating with others causing exciting experiences
Encouraging myself to view the framework of my problems
Solving the problems within the various ways without limitation
Focusing on understanding the concepts help me out to create my own world
The meaningful learning experiences rather than the technical procedures
The achievement on the thinking process rather than the long writing achievement
The learning process rather than the grade achievement
The self understanding rather than the self directing
Flying out the boundaries of the technical framework
Finding the ways within the tough journey
Transforming the learning process to understand my self and others
This poem describes my condition when I was a student in high school, especially when my teachers encouraged me to think about my thinking process to find out my problems in my learning. I agree that, we will never realise about ourselves without reflecting on our journey as learners.
In July 2007, In Jakarta, 7 of 39 types of food are founded to be containing Formalin (Yuliawati, 2007 on http://www.tempointeraktif.com/) which are imported from an Asian country. When I read the article, I realise that most Indonesian food and beverage producers have not yet fulfilled the sanitary standard requirements. But, the experiences as chemical analyst in one dairy product company remind me of the issue of controlling the quality of products. I realise that, it would not happen if the chemical analyst who works in the company or Drug & Food Control Agency (BPOM) have analysed the product appropriately. It is easy to do the qualitative and quantitative formalin test to the food. The problems are the chemistry analyst honest, emphatic, responsible, or not? It is because that the food analysis is done after the large amount of food is produced which means if the formalin is found in the food, the producer have to destroy it. The lost of huge number of food product, money, and time becomes an issue. Therefore, sometimes the producers will ask the analyst chemistry to change the data. It is a dangerous condition, if the chemistry analyst doesn't think her/his responsibility to the society. The formalin will be found again in the food.
I realise the high responsibility of my job as chemistry analyst. Even though I have more understanding of chemistry concepts, but what is it for, if my knowledge causes danger for others lives? I try to imply it into my students since who become chemistry teachers and chemists. Both of their roles are important in the society. They have to use their knowledge in chemistry to be useful for others, not to make it dangerous. Therefore, throughout the exploration of metacognitive skills, I tried to understand how these metacognitive skills not only help my students to know chemistry concepts, but also develop consciousness as holistic individuals who are empathetic with their society. Since I comprehend that becoming a teacher is a great work which could make changes in society by empowering younger generations to be active citizens. Even though I also applied the meaningful learning experiences in the several contexts, I never thought to provoke my students to give active participation in the social reconstruction.
For example, I could use metacognitive approaches which encourage the students to reflect on their thinking process. I bring them to be conscious that they could actively participate in society. According to Fensham (1988), teachers should "act as couriers" who bring science curriculum into their life. I will be concerned with empowering my students as social agents to participate in a better world without ignoring their holistic as individuals. I believe that every student is "an active initiator and reactor" for his or her environment (Marsh, 2000, p.215). My students could use their experiences to relate with the subjects. It is important to empower my students to dialogue with their experiences (Pinar & Reynolds, 1992). However, I also need to explore "my students' motivations and feelings about learning as important as the content of learning" (Arnold, 2005, p.19).
Through the metacognitive skills which provided meaningful learning experiences for students, I could relate it with the concept of currere which I found powerful in the curricula unit. According to Pinar (2004), curriculum as currere helps fuse "academic knowledge and life history in the interest of self understanding and social reconstruction" (p.35) which has four steps which are regressive, progressive, analytical, synthesis. According to Doll (2002), currere orientation is on the reflection and transformation of personal experience. Moreover, currere refers to reconceptualise and exploring existential individual life experiences (Schubert 1986; Ornstein & Hunkins, 2004; Print, 1993; Lovat & Smith, 1993). Therefore, in pedagogic practices, students could use their autobiography to evaluate their experiences, think about future, analyse both past and future, and create the people that they want to be. Therefore, based on exploring the idea of empowerment's students within chemistry teaching and the fact that the students could be empowered throughout the education process, I have expanded my understanding about the reconstruction of my society.
One day, my students have practical work on determination of iron in water. It is common that the percentage of iron in the water at my university is higher than the national health standard. Therefore, the practicum of iron determination is important to control the water quality. However, since the first time, I just follow the practicum procedures which already set up by the department. I never realised or evaluated the procedures within my teaching until my student came to ask the question: "Why do we add 25 mL of acid sulphate solution, (he showed me the practicum book), is it right?" This "why" question seems to be a simple question, I also could answer "yes, just follow the procedures", but it caused me to think, "Acid sulphate is used to avoid hydrolysis and to create reaction in the environment, if we add 10 mL, the reaction remains to continue. So, why should we add 25 mL?" I looked at the practicum book, "Why do I never think about the quantities?" I realised that the quantity of the solutions that they use is more than necessary. It also causes the huge waste problems. In the silent, I think but I neither do nor know what I should do. The book is already published. If I want to change it, I have to do experiments to prove that my ideas in experimental methods were precise. Should I trap again in the standardisation of procedures? Should I ignore the environmental problems? Should I just be silent, even I know the better way?
The story represents my dilemmas when I found the other problems in teaching analytical chemistry practicum. I really struggle to accomplish the dilemmas and solve problems by applying green chemistry. Green chemistry, also called sustainable chemistry, is a chemical philosophy within the set of principles in chemical process which reduces and eliminates the use and generation of hazardous chemical substances (Anastas & Warner, 1998). This green chemistry concept helps to reduce waste, effective practicum in laboratory, support safety management, and minimise the cost because of using less quantity of chemical substances. Furthermore, there are 12 principles of green chemistry which are 1) prevention atom, 2) economy, 3) less hazardous chemical syntheses, 4) designing safer chemicals, 5) safer solvents and auxiliaries, 6) design for energy efficiency, 7) use of renewable feedstocks, 8) reduce derivatives, 9) catalysis, 10) design for degradation, 11) real-time analysis for pollution prevention, 12) inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention. These 12 principles have guided me to apply several strategies in my laboratory, such as application of small quantity of chemical substances, substitution of dangerous chemical substances, and recycling the waste. These are several strategies of green chemistry which I applied in my laboratory.
|Practicum||Green chemistry||Without green chemistry approaches|
The procedure with green chemistry approaches not only provides the effective process of practical work, but also uses the less quantity and types of chemical substances. However, I realise that the procedure of Iron determination without green chemistry approaches didn't teach student to deal with the complex chemical sample. Therefore, I needed to explore in depth how green chemistry can be applied both for environment sustainability and students' understanding.
|Laboratory's size is too small for 30 students.||Manage the practical work.|
|Dangerous chemical substances.||Substitute chemical substances which are less dangerous.|
|Some students didn't obey the rules.||Stimulate students' awareness and severe the rules.|
I tried to minimise the interaction between my students and the dangerous chemical substances. I substituted some dangerous solutions with others. For example, to determine concentration of iodine, we can use arsenic oxide, but it is very toxic. Therefore, I changed it to iron. Sometimes, if I could not change the substances, I chose another method which would not use the dangerous chemical. I believe that the simple way could be done to minimise the environmental problems, it is better rather than doing nothing.
|Where is the waste?|
I am looking at the window at the third floor of science laboratory. My eyes are focused on the houses around my university. The houses are not in good condition because of most of the people who live there come from low income family. The wastes are everywhere, the dirty water stagnates around the houses, and the air is polluted and bad smell. My eyes move around the one place which they called public toilet. It is common that there are some public toilets which are used by the people around the place which are inappropriate condition. Looking back to the laboratory room where my students work on the practicum. Then, I think of the wastes that are produced by my laboratory. It might be dumped in the place where the people live. I know that there are some places for the laboratory waste, but because of the high cost of waste management, sometimes the waste treatment is inappropriate. As a result, the liquid waste could be adsorbed by the soil which causes groundwater pollution. Then, the water is used by the people in the vicinity of the university. Oh my God, how could it happen? May be I just the little effects now, but how about 5, 10 or 15 years later? What should I do then?
I decided to apply the new rule. They had to dilute the waste first before throwing it to the washbasin. It was better than throwing them directly into the wash basin that was connected to the water channel. In addition, I thought about the recycle process of using chemical solution, such as silver nitrate that is used as a titrant. That solution can be recycled as a silver precipitate. However, at that time, it was very difficult for me for rechecking the experimental methods and recycling at the same time.
|Standard solutions||Standard solutions are prepared to minimise waste.|
|Dilution||Students should dilute the solutions before throwing into the wash basin for less dangerous substances.|
|Recycling||Students should put aside the substances which can be recycled.|
I realise that the strategies that I applied are very simple. But as a beginning teacher, I think that I have to do something, not only as an educator who has responsibility to shape my students, but also as a human who has social responsibilities. Therefore, I am really hoping that my journey at SMEC could be helpful for me to be an critical and reflective educator.
I remember that when I applied the green chemistry approaches, I tried to give the room for students' creativity. They could change the methods which they found more effective and environment friendly. They think critically about the chemistry concepts beyond the laboratory activities. They would discuss with me if the procedures had the same concepts, I would allow them to do it. Shaping the learning process to empower the students is tough and intensive process in education. But, the outcomes of this process could provide lasting changes in the society.
However, finding the ways to empower the students to be active citizens in the society throughout the green chemistry approaches would be a powerful journey for me. The integration of my curriculum visions on the idea of eco-justice, social justice, democracy, community, and agenda for social reconstruction would help my students to actively participate in this process. Furthermore, according to Gadotti (2003), the environment's preservation depends on the ecological awareness which is essential to help be responsive the young generation throughout the education process. Moreover, "education as an ethical enterprise might teach young people to value their world and the very ecosystem that sustain life" (Morris, 2002, p. 583). Therefore, I believe that the idea of sustainability could be applied in my teaching practices on green chemistry concepts to empower my students and to sustain the environment. For example, I could choose one topic of science subject matter such as environmental science and relate this topic into their lived experiences. Moreover, shaping by the concept of radical constructivism, I could direct my teaching practice to help students construct their knowledge, reflect on it, and empower themselves. Furthermore, I found that the idea of curriculum dynamics through the curriculum matrix and the essential concept of curriculum integration will help me to engage my students to understand themselves and the world throughout the new knowledge and experience in their real lives.
According to Chambers and Rowell (2007), environmental issues in science curricula could promote the students' awareness of the social, economic and political dimensions in the society. Now, I become more concerned on non-conventional ways that I could apply in my pedagogical practices. According to Woods (1996, p.127), "students' empowerment through emancipating them from ideologies and discriminatory practices" is the aim of critical pedagogy. This process helps students to develop their capacity to struggle in their lives (Lovat & Smith, 1998).As a result, even though, I didn't assess my students' empowerment within the green chemistry approaches, I hope that exploring this idea will give me a provision to step forward to develop my students as the agents for sustainability.
The green chemistry approaches not only promote the idea of sustainability, but also the students' empowerment. I agree that revealing science education to support the broad participation of science for sustainability the future (Brickhouse and Kittleson, 2006). Science could be envisioned through the national policies which encourage the role of science and technology to promote ecological sustainability (p.203). This idea gives me a vision to empower my students to participate in the society, especially in creating a sustainable environment. Furthermore, since I realise that the importance of shaping students as a holistic individuals, I need to equip my students with personal and social competencies which help them to participate in their real-life performances. According to Robertson and Gerber (2001), development children's identity requires an understanding of themselves and social world. I realise that my students are individuals who have feeling, emotionality, and intelligence. Therefore, I favour to shape my pedagogical practices via interpersonal relationships, development of self awareness, self development, engagement, and personal experiences. I found the concepts of emphatic intelligence would lead my teaching into the transformative learning in which personalised experiences are central to deep learning. I will apply the deep learning which could help my students to understand that the learning is not only memorising but also transforming their capability as individual and social agents.
Finally, I hope that my vision on my pedagogical practices could empower me to shape students who have ability to engage with the social change and active solidarity (Ross, 2007). Moreover, I agree that it will be prevailing to teaching science by linking scientific ways of thinking with the advancement of democratic society, rather than simply treating science curriculum as a subject matter which prepares students to have skills to critically analyse and change society (Longbottom & Butler, 1999). Furthermore, According to Aspin in Pascoe (2002) and Henderson (2001), promoting the values of moral, social, political, and aesthetic are vital elements in education process for citizenship in democracy which develop the autonomous individual in the society. This process could help them to be initiators in enriching the social capital. Even though, these ideas seem ambiguous, I believe that my awakened role in the education process helps create a sustainable future of my society. As a result, the journey of conducting this inquiry is an initial step for me to be a critical and reflective thinker which can be an insightful precursor to my ongoing inquiry into my pedagogical practices.
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|Author: Yuli Rahmawati, Science and Mathematics Education Centre, Curtin University of Technology. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Rahmawati, Y. (2008). Utilising metacognitive skills and green chemistry for self reflection: An autoethnographic research. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2008. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2008/rahmawati.html