Using cluster analysis to characterize meaningful learning in a first-year university chemistry laboratory course
The Meaningful Learning in the Laboratory Instrument (MLLI) was designed to measure students' cognitive and affective learning in the university chemistry laboratory. The MLLI was administered at the beginning and the end of the first semester to first-year university chemistry students to measure their expectations and experiences for learning in their laboratory course. To better understand what students' expectations for learning were fulfilled, and what expectations went unmet, cluster analysis was used to examine students' expectations and experiences as measured by their average scores on the MLLI at both the beginning and the end of the semester. The cluster solution yielded four clusters. Three of the four clusters consisted of parallel responses, i.e., the first cluster had both low expectations and low experiences, the third cluster had both high expectations and high experiences, and the second cluster was in the middle of the first and third. The fourth cluster had expectations similar to those of the high cluster, but surprisingly had experiences similar to those of the middle and low clusters. Descriptions of each cluster of students, including distinguishing characteristics of their learning in the laboratory, and the implications of this research are discussed.