Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Chemistry and Biochemistry

First Advisor

Tanya Gupta


Culturally Relevant Chemistry Education, curriculum development, academic performance, conceptual understanding, student motivation and self-regulation, attitudes, cultural practices, Native Americans


The relevance of chemistry concepts and principles remains a challenge for most students enrolled in college chemistry courses. Part of this problem is the disconnect with what students experience in their every-day lives, and how the material, specifically chemistry content is presented via textbooks, lectures, and laboratory teaching. Moreover, the teaching of general chemistry has traditionally focused on traditional, instructor-centric expository delivery of course materials, that treats students as empty vessels devoid of prior knowledge. Students prior knowledge and experiences are crucial in shaping their understanding of scientific concepts and principles. Even students with relatively low expectations for success in science display more interest and better performance when provided opportunities to connect the relevance of science to their lives1, 2. Despite changes in the teaching and learning of chemistry as called for by the chemical education experts and researchers, Culturally Relevant Chemistry Education (CRCE) has remained a distant goal. This can be attributed to the lack of curricular materials to teach chemistry in a meaningful way. This study addressed this gap through the development of modules that emphasize the relevance of scientific (chemistry-based) practices from a cultural and traditional standpoint. The study presents details of a) rationale for, and the development of CRCE modules channeled as texts and videos b) piloting and revision of CRCE modules and c) implementation of CRCE modules in a general chemistry course and d) complete integration of modules in a large enrollment general chemistry survey course section. The study is informed by three theoretical frameworks namely Culturally Relevant Education (CRE) framework, Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning, and constructivism and social constructivism. Three research questions that focused on student academic performance, conceptual understanding, student attitudes towards the subject of chemistry, and motivation and self-regulation in science were answered for each stage to draw conclusions on the impact and effectiveness of modules. The study involved a sequential exploratory research design with emphasis on both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis to answer the research questions. At the beginning of study, a pilot study that tested the feasibility of newly designed modules integrating the cultural practices in the chemistry content was investigated. Piloting of CRCE modules focused on impacting student’s academic performance, conceptual understanding, attitudes in chemistry as well as motivation and self-regulation. Key findings from the piloting of the developed modules are presented. These findings indicate (a) CRCE modules that merge students own experience with the cultural practices of a place leading to meaningful learning, (b) students likely to improve in their academic performance and (c) student attitudes and motivation with science experiences a positive shift during the CRCE modules pilot efforts. Since general chemistry is a required course for programs in health sciences, agricultural sciences, and science related careers, the impact of implementing and integrating CRCE modules in lecture section of a general chemistry course on students’ academic performance, conceptual understanding, attitudes, and motivation and selfregulation was investigated. Results from implementation stage of CRCE study showed a significant impact of the implementation of CRCE on students’ academic performance, conceptual understanding, attitude, and motivation and self-regulation. Also, analysis from integration stage of CRCE modules indicated an improvement on academic performance, conceptual understanding, and motivation and self-regulation but there was some inconsistency in the impact of integrated CRCE modules on students’ attitudes. The inconsistency was rather related to the shift of teaching to online mode during the COVID pandemic and that the modules had maintained a positive impact on student attitudes.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Chemistry -- Study and teaching (Higher)
Culturally relevant pedagogy.
Indians of North America -- Education.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright