Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School


First Advisor

Matthew Miller


concepts-based, flow of knowledge, lab and lecture connection, lab curriculum, Laboratory role, skills-based


Laboratory courses play a key role in developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills and providing experience in certain aspects of a laboratory setting including reactions, materials, and equipment. Prior studies suggest that a laboratory course assists students toward cognitive gain on lecture content. In contrast, other studies conclude that laboratory is uncorrelated with cognitive gain on lecture content. Thus, a discord exists between researchers regarding the role that laboratory experiences play in furthering the understanding of chemistry concepts taught in lectures. The purpose of this research is to examine the impact of two different laboratory curricula on students’ performance in general chemistry. The first curriculum was designed to simultaneously match the topics being introduced in the lecture (concepts-based curriculum). The second curriculum was designed to include all the same lab experiences as the first curriculum but in a method organized around lab skills, not always linked simultaneously to concepts in lectures (skills-based curriculum). Subsequently, we compared students’ learning in the lecture course associated with these two laboratory settings. Additionally, we examined how these different curricula impacted students' thinking about the particulate nature of matter (PNM). The research perspective reflected a phenomenography approach, as this study focused on the direct experience of students’ skills and performance in two different lab settings. General chemistry courses and laboratories offered by the chemistry and biochemistry department at South Dakota State University were the main focus of the study although some data was collected in organic and analytical laboratory sections. Our data include 1) the initial and the final surveys with particulate nature of matter questions, 2) post-lab surveys after each lab session, 3) open-ended exam questions in lecture courses, 4) laboratory observation notes, and 5) semi-structured interviews with students. Our finding indicates that by comparing trends in concept-based group with skills-based group, there was a notable difference between both groups. These trends were categorized into five main themes, 1) lab Importance, 2) lab and lecture connection, 3) flow of knowledge between lab and lecture, 4) students' perspective on both lab's settings, and 5) Particulate Nature of Matter (PNM) survey answers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Chemistry -- Study and teaching (Higher)
College students -- Attitudes.
Education, Higher -- Curricula.
Laboratories -- Evaluation.
Particulate matter -- Study and teaching (Higher)

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright