Creating and testing an activity with interdisciplinary connections: entropy to osmosis
Students often struggle to make interdisciplinary connections and cite a lack of opportunity to make such connections. To address this issue, we are developing activities aligned with the framework of three-dimensional learning that provide students with opportunities to make connections between chemistry concepts and biological phenomena. Here, we focus on an activity that asks students to incorporate the concept of entropy in explaining the biological phenomenon of osmosis across a cell membrane. This activity was administered in both introductory cell and molecular biology and second-semester general chemistry courses. We found that after completing carefully scaffolded questions within the activity, students were better able to correctly use the concept of entropy in explaining osmosis than they were before the scaffolding questions. Additionally, we found that students’ course history appeared to impact their explanations of this phenomenon in that students who had taken second-semester general chemistry (i.e., the semester in which entropy is discussed for these students) provided more sophisticated responses and were less likely to include scientifically inaccurate ideas than their peers who had not taken second-semester general chemistry.