Student oriented approaches in the teaching of thermodynamics at universities – developing an effective course structure
The aim of this study was to apply current pedagogical research in order to develop an effective course and exercise structure for a physical chemistry thermodynamics course intended for second or third year university students of chemistry. A mixed-method approach was used to measure the impact the changes had on student learning. In its final form in 2014, the course consisted of lectures following a broken lecture structure that incorporated different kinds of activating learning tasks, and a three-tiered exercise structure including qualitative and quantitative tasks with a large emphasis on collaborative problem-solving. The new lecture and exercise structures improved student learning as measured by students' exercise points, exam results, and, between 2013 and 2014, the results of a conceptual thermodynamics test the students took at the beginning and end of the course. Even though the new exercise structure increased students' motivation, positive affect and satisfaction with the course, in both 2013 and 2014, it was the interactive lecture structure that students reported to be the most beneficial part of the course. In light of these results, this study demonstrates the advantages on student learning of adopting a multifaceted approach to both lectures and exercises.