Available Chemistry Education research projects:

Dr. G.T. Prins, dr. A.M.W. Bulte

Sustainability has become a prominent theme in society and having a grounded opinion on this can be considered as an integral part of scientific citizenship. In the last decades, several strategies have been proposed to make society more sustainable, such as the cradle-to-cradle (C2C) design, green engineering and eco-technology. These movements are focussed on the design of products and processes which maximise resource and energy efficiency, minimise - or preferably eliminate - waste and cause less harm to the environment. In order to achieve a more sustainable future, it is important that the current generation lives in such a way that they do not jeopardize the opportunities for future generations. Education about and for sustainability is one of the routes to address sustainability issues among students. Central concepts in Education for Sustainability (ESD) are skills related to validation and justification of claims, argumentation, morality, decision making and the ability to discuss. Chemistry education takes a central role in teaching future generations on sustainability and to motivate them to act sustainable. In this institute, several projects have been started the aim to design high-quality teaching materials, addressing above mentioned concepts and skills related to sustainability. The design of the teaching materials follows several stages, i.e. a conceptual analysis of the sustainability issue at hand, mapping prior knowledge in students, iterative design of teaching materials followed by empirical testing of developed materials (mostly secondary school chemistry classes). 

Anastas, P. T., & Zimmerman, J. B. (2003). Design through the 12 principles of green engineering. Environmental Science & Technology, 37(5), 95A–101A. https://doi.org/10.1109/EMR.2007.4296421

Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (2012). An example of learning about plastics and their evaluation as a contribution to Education for Sustainable Development in secondary school chemistry teaching. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 13(2), 93–102. https://doi.org/10.1039/C1RP90067F

Juntunen, M. K., & Aksela, M. K. (2014). Improving students’ argumentation skills through a product life-cycle analysis project in chemistry education. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 15(4), 639–649. https://doi.org/10.1039/c4rp00068d

Dr. H.E.K. Matimba

The use of Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies is an fast emerging aspect in education. Several nice applications have been developed for the subjects of geography and history in which students can interactively learn about concepts or their environment. In the field of chemistry the introduction of this technology has mainly been restricted to the 3D visualization of molecules. In this institute, several projects have been started to determine the effectiveness of this technology with respect to learning effect in the understanding of both models and concepts in biology and chemistry secondary education. For this reason applications are developed and build. Topics are scrutinized and evaluated using the principle of design cycle for further investigation and construction. Upon completion of the design cycle the obtained product is tested and analyzed using the Lesson Study approach or cycle. With this approach the product (an app) is tested in a classroom setting, whereby several teachers meticulously devise a research lesson. During the execution of the research lesson several students are the closely monitored to see if predicted behaviour is observed. This cycle is repeated after evaluation and revision of the lesson. This approach is furthermore a beneficial tool for teacher professionalization. It should be noted that several research projects are conceivable within the research into the effectiveness of AVR technologies in science education. One of the participating partners in this project is www.epic-xs.eu.

Nico Rutten, Wouter R. van Joolingen, Jan T. van der Veen (2012) The learning effects of computer simulations in science education, Computers & Education 58  136–153, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.07.017

Dunleavy, M., Dede, C. & Mitchell, R. J Sci Educ Technol (2009) 18: 7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-008-9119-1

Fer Coenders & Nellie Verhoef (2018): Lesson Study: professional development (PD) for beginning and experienced teachers, Professional Development in Education, DOI: 10.1080/19415257.2018.1430050

Supervisors: Wouter van Joolingen (FI),  Roland Geraerts (CS)

This project is a collaboration between Department of Computer science, University Museum and Freudenthal Institute.

At big events, such as pop concerts, sports events and demonstrations, large numbers of people get together in a relatively small space. This can cause problems: due to congestions, people may not be able to reach their goals in time, emergency services (ambulances, fire fighters) may not be able to get through the crowds and even accidents due to suffocation may occur. For this reason it is important to study how such crowds can be managed.

In order to understand how such large numbers of people can be controlled to ensure fluid passage and avoid dangerous situations, the department of computer science develops a crowd simulation that allows for specifying the characteristics of a situation (roads, obstacles, sources and targets of people (e.g. entrances and exits, toilets, viewing positions for a sports event, …). The simulation then computes and visualizes the flows of people in the environment, indicating people flow and problematic points. By adjusting the environment, users can see how the environment influences the flow of the crowd.

The crowd simulations can also have an educational function. By interacting with the simulation, students (the target group is 8-14 year old children) can study the effects of the environment on the people flows and, moreover, study the properties of the model behind the crowd simulation. In such a way, students engage in inquiry-based learning and learn to assess the role of models and modeling in scientific understanding.

The University Museum plans to include a large scale model of the crowd simulator in its new exhibition. This model will allow for physical interaction with the simulation, by moving blocks that represent buildings and other obstacles. Scenarios of use of such a setup are (1) free interaction and exploration by museum visitors in the target age and (2) guided interaction under supervision of a museum guide.

The goal of this master student project will be to investigate the constraints and possibilities for these two scenarios and develop and evaluate test scenarios. For instance, a question is what good starting questions are for students, or how a guide can engage children in active exploration. The scenarios developed will be tested in practice in the Teaching and Learning Lab.

Contact: Gjalt Prins

Molecular Modeling is one of the fastest growing fields in science. It may vary from building and visualizing simple molecules (in 3-Dimensions) to performing complex computer simulations on large protein molecules. Using various molecular modeling software, one can visualize, rotate, manipulate, and optimize models on a computer display. Molecular Modelling is used, for instance, for designing drugs and new materials. In secondary chemistry education students should become acquainted with and gain insights in the technique of Molecular Modelling. This urges for high quality teaching materials in which students are meaningfully engaged in molecular modelling. In our institute an innovative curriculum unit has been developed, in which students perform a lead optimalisation for designing a new drug against the malaria disease. The authentic practice of drug design is used as a context for learning. The designed curriculum unit, however, is only tested once among students grade 11. The results were positive, although it became apparent that the unit needs a thorough revision and a second try-out using the method of educational design research.

Dori, Y. J., & Kaberman, Z. (2012). Assessing high school chemistry students' modeling sub-skills in a computerized molecular modeling learning environment. Instructional Science, 40(1), 69-91. doi: 10.1007/s11251-011-9172-7.

Prins, G. T., Bulte, A. M. W., Driel, van J. H., & Pilot, A. (2009). Students' involvement in authentic modelling practices as context in chemistry education. Research in Science Education, 39, 681-700. doi: 10.1007/s11165-008-9099-4.