An Application of Context- and Problem-Based Learning
(C-PBL) into Teaching Thermodynamics
#Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017
Abstract This study aims to investigate the applicability of context- and problem-
based learning (C-PBL) into teaching thermodynamics and to examine its influence on
the students’achievements in chemistry, retention of knowledge, students’attitudes,
motivation and interest towards chemistry. The embedded mixed method design was
utilized with a group of 13 chemistry students in a 2-year program of BMedical
Laboratory and Techniques^at a state university in an underdeveloped city at the
southeastern region of Turkey. The research data were collected via questionnaires
regarding the students’attitudes, motivation and interest in chemistry, an achievement
test on Bthermodynamics^and interviews utilized to find out the applicability of C-
PBL into thermodynamics. The findings demonstrated that C-PBL led a statistically
significant increase in the students’achievement in thermodynamics and their interest
in chemistry, while no statistically significant difference was observed in the students’
attitudes and motivation towards chemistry before and after the intervention. The
interviews revealed that C-PBL developed not only the students’communication skills
but also their skills in using time effectively, making presentations, reporting research
results and using technology. It was also found to increase their self-confidence
together with the positive attitudes towards C-PBL and being able to associate
chemistry with daily life. In light of these findings, it could be stated that it will
be beneficial to increase the use of C-PBL in teaching chemistry.
Keywords Chemistry .Context- and problem-based learning (C-PBL) .Thermodynamics .
Mixed method design
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Education Faculty, Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Primary Science Education,
Hakkari University, 31000 Hakkari, Turkey
Kazım Karabekir Education Faculty, Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Chemistry
Education, Atatürk University, 25240 Erzurum, Turkey
Although people have long wondered how learning occurs, the first related scientific
studies were carried out in the nineteenth century to satisfy this curiosity (Schunk
2012, p. 7). A number of theories were put forward regarding how learning occurs.
Today, increasing knowledge, the changing student profile and rapid developments in
technology have all increased the expectations of students about learning indepen-
dently, managing their time, researching and having a high quality of knowledge. Due
to the inefficiency of the traditional methods influenced by the positivist viewpoint, it
is now a problem at schools that students fail to concretize their knowledge or to use
their knowledge in daily life. Various methods have been developed and are still
being developed for more effective and permanent learning. Therefore, in recent years,
constructivist theories have been put forward which are based on the post-positivist
and interpretive paradigm, which put students in the centre and which allow students
to structure their background knowledge, their perceptions, their social environment,
their language and their behaviour actively in their minds during the learning activity.
The social constructivism perspective claims that meaning is not independent of an
individual’s social environment and that learning is influenced by the individual’s
culture and language (Merriam and Caffarella 1999;Vygotsky1978). Social construc-
tivism is applied at schools via various methods such as problem-based learning,
cooperative learning, project-based learning, situated learning, cognitive apprenticeship
and context-based learning.
A model of social constructivism is the method of context-based learning (CBL)
which claims learning occurs via contexts in an individual’s social environment. CBL
includes learning in contexts or learning that occurs via real-life experiences. The
CBL approach focusses on the application of science as a means of enhancing
scientific understanding of the students’real worlds while developing the students’
capacities to function as responsible participants in their everyday lives (Bennett 2005;
King 2012). CBL uses a real-life context of a student as a teaching material, while in
problem-based learning (PBL), a sub-category of the context-based learning approach,
the context is used in the form of problem scenario that the student is likely to
encounter in daily life (Overton et al. 2009). The process of CBL involves students
being provided with a scenario and undertaking a student-led process of
hypothesising, which ultimately results in the development of the students’own
learning needs. The identified learning needs are explored by the student group,
who use current research and resources to consolidate a position, and present these
to their peers. As a teaching tool CBL, utilizes a group approach to learning—the
process of working together creates discourse and leads students towards a solution
focus (Trimmer et al. 2009).
On the other hand, PBL invites students to search, to think critical, to work in a
team and to find solutions to the problems that are given in scenarios. In the science
education literature, there are studies that investigate uses of PBL and its effects
suggesting that learners prefer this method to the conventional, lecture-based method
(Albanese and Mitchell 1993; Vernon and Blake 1993). Compared with conventional
instruction, PBL, as suggested by the findings, is more nurturing and enjoyable
(Albanese and Mitchell 1993). Furthermore, studies suggest that students in PBL are
better at applying their skills but there are contradictory evidences that PBL improves
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the knowledge base (Colliver 2000). Van den Bossche et al. (2000) concluded that
PBL had a positive robust effect on the skills of students but a negative nonrobust
effect on knowledge. Riberio and Mizukami (2005), after applying PBL to engineer-
ing students, found out that this approach improves the skill of studying in small
groups, the skill of discussing and the skill of synthesizing the knowledge. On the
other hand, there is evidence (Senocak et al. 2007; Tosun and Taşkesenligil 2013)that
PBL improves students’academic achievement and knowledge base as well as other
skills. However, there are studies (i.e. Kirschner et al. 2006) which criticize the effects
of instructional approaches such as PBL and inquiry-based instruction. These ap-
proaches are considered minimally guided or unguided, and, therefore, it was argued
that they are less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches which put
more emphasis on guidance of a student’s learning process. Therefore, PBL is found
ineffective compared to instruction that provides direct, explicit information (Sweller
et al. 2007). However, this view is criticized and arguments included that PBL allows
for flexible adaptation of guidance, and its underlying principles are very well
compatible with the manner in which our cognitive structures are organized
(Schmidt et al. 2007).
CBL does not necessarily need a problem. The context could be any issue, such as a
cultural issue, an event from newspaper, a story or an environmental problem from the
learner’s social environment. In contrary, PBL uses contextualized real-world problems and
these are typically a set of descriptions of phenomena or situations in need of explanations and
resolution (Schmidt 1983). For example, in CBL, the context can be a problem or other issues
from the students’social environment, but PBL needs a problem which is from the students’
social environment (such as poisoning, global warming, criminal event or any contextualized
problems that need to be solved). Context- and problem-based learning (C-PBL), emphasizes
the context side of PBL. Tiwari et al. (2001) define C-PBL as below:
BThe context-based PBL model is designed to retain the philosophy and key features of
the ‘typical’PBL approach while providing the transition to bridge the gap between
traditional dependent didactic learning and self-directed independent learning^.
If a problem is presented in a real-life context, the context-based problem is formed.
Learning via context-based problem uses real-life contexts, and problems to support the
students’control over their learning (Overton 2007). For students, this provides the opportunity
to test theories through real-life examples. BThe C/PBL approach works by setting students
open ended problems with engaging scenarios which help illustrate the variety [sic] of ways in
which the students’understanding of the subject may be applied as well as the importance of
problem solving skills to professional^(Williams and McKenzie 2013). Therefore, as argued by
Eilks and Byers (2010), it would be Bhighly desirable to embed the connection to everyday life,
contemporary research, society, or chemical technology into our teaching by using context- and
problem-based approaches to promote the meaningful learning of chemistry^(pp. 236–237).
There is an abundance of evidences that C-PBL designs produce better learning. For example,
Belt et al. (2002) and Summerfield et al. (2003) have trialled C-PBL resources for analytical
chemistry, drawing on contexts in industrial, pharmaceutical, environmental and forensic
chemistry. These resources deliver learning outcomes in analytical chemistry and also help
the development of a range of transferable skills. In another study, sport was used as the context
to meet learning outcomes in biochemistry, simple thermodynamics and materials chemistry
(Potter and Overton 2006). C-PBL is mostly used in the Western world, while rare examples of
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its vast use come from the University of Hong Kong. Tang et al. (1997) applied C-PBL to
different cases, and it is showed that C-PBL allows students to learn deeper.
Previous Studies Conducted on Thermodynamics
Research into chemistry education shows that the majority of students have difficulty in
understanding a variety of subjects in chemistry and that they learn them inadequately. As
revealed in many studies so far, the thermodynamics ofchemistry is considered to be a difficult
subject to learn. The literature review points out that students find physical chemistry and the
thermodynamics of chemistry challenging (Sozbilir 2004a,b; Sözbilir et al. 2010). Moreover,
Castier and Amer (2011) state that classes in thermodynamics are difficult not only for a number
of students to learn, but also for some educators to teach. Thomas and Schwenz (1998)found
that senior chemistry students have common misconceptions about the basics of chemistry,
including a large number in thermodynamics as well. A great deal of conceptual difficulty is
experienced while teaching thermodynamics and balancing chemical equations in secondary
and undergraduate courses (Sreenivasulu and Subramaniam 2013). Klimenko (2012) reports
that engineering students do not have difficulty understanding the first law of energy and
thermodynamics, but they do havetrouble with the concepts of entropy and the second and third
laws. Turanyi and Toth (2013) conducted a survey among environmental science, biology and
chemistry students on thermodynamics and reaction kinetics and found that the students had
thermodynamic misconceptions previously reported in related literature. These studies indicate
that the problem continues to exist in further academic experiences unless the aforementioned
misconceptions are cleared up. Thanks to their four-step diagnostic tests carried out on 106
students at the National University of Singapore, Sreenivasulu and Subramaniam (2013)
identified a total of 34 misconceptions about thermodynamics, most of which included; energy
transfer between the system and surroundings, internal energy, enthalpy, changeof entropy, free
energy, the third law of thermodynamics, endothermic and exothermic systems, using Celsius
scale in thermodynamic formula, inaccurate information on thermodynamic equations, and so
on. Furthermore, analysing related studies, Sozbilir (2004a) found that students have miscon-
ceptions about various thermodynamic subjects such as entropy, chemical bond energy,
enthalpy and Gibbs free energy.
As seen from the above-mentioned studies conducted so far, the majority of students have
difficulty in learning thermodynamics, as a result of which they develop scientific misconcep-
tions. However, the underlying problem is why students have inaccurate or inadequate knowl-
edge and have trouble understanding the subject, which has several determining factors: the fact
that thermodynamics requires more math skills, the students’inefficient skills, the insufficiency
of the students’prior knowledge and the lack of students’interest and logical thinking (Belt
et al. 2005). In addition, Doige and Day (2012) state that differences between scientific and
daily languages and mismatches in course books in particular, prevent students from learning
physics and chemistry courses. Sozbilir (2003) points out that the practical meanings of
scientific terms are dominant in students’theoretical interpretation, and teachers should check
whether students have learned the accurate and scientific meanings of concepts so that they can
put these not only into practice but also into theory. It is thought that developing opportunities
and materials to attract the students’interest and encourage logical thinking is necessary to
prevent students from coming with inadequate information. In accordance with this thought, it
is also considered that real-life problems students are familiar with should be introduced to the
learning environments of students, who are at the beginning of their academic life, so as to
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promote their interest in thermodynamics of chemistry as well as their motivation for it. As a
consequence of this,it could be stated that students are assured that not only is thermodynamics
a matter of mathematical formulae but it is also the result of a series of events in various stages
of their lives.
This study aims to investigate the applicability of C-PBL into practice in thermodynam-
ics, in an undergraduate general chemistry course. Particularly, it investigates the effects
of C-PBL on the students’academic achievement and retention of knowledge of chem-
istry together with its effects on the students’interest, motivation and attitudes towards
chemistry. In order to fulfil this purpose, the following research questions were addressed
in the present study.
1. What are the effects of C-PBL on the students’academic achievement and retention of
2. What are the effects of C-PBL on the students’interest in chemistry?
3. What are the effects of C-PBL on the students’attitudes towards chemistry?
4. What are the effects of C-PBL on the students’motivation for chemistry?
5. What is the applicability of C-PBL to the undergraduate general chemistry course on
This study has employeda mixed methods approach. Mixed methods research is an approach in
which quantitative and qualitative data are brought together to provide more complete under-
standing of the research problem (Creswell 2014). Creswell classified mixed methods research
as basic and advanced mixed methods designs in his recent book. The embedded mixed
methods design is counted as an advanced mixed methods design. It is defined as a design
which Bnests one more forms of data (quantitative or qualitative or both) within a larger design
(e.g. a narrative, an ethnography, an experiment)^(p. 228). Researchers use this design when
they need qualitative or quantitative data to answer a research question within a largely
quantitative or qualitative study (Creswell and Plano-Clark 2007). This study was designed
as an intervention in teaching thermodynamics. However, instead of measuring the effect of the
designated intervention only by means of quantitative measures, we wanted to see how
applicable this intervention was in practical settings (e.g. vocational schools) together with its
effect on the students’learning of thermodynamics and their motivation, interest and attitudes
towards chemistry. The students’achievement in thermodynamics and their interest and
motivation in chemistry and attitudes towards chemistry were measured through quantitative
measures, while the applicability of C-PBL into teaching thermodynamics was determined
through qualitative data. Therefore, in this intervention study (a pre-experimental study),
qualitative data were embedded into an experimental setting to find out the participants’
perspectives and impact of the intervention.
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Data Collection Tools
Data were collected through various quantitative and qualitative tools. Among them were
quantitative instruments such as achievement test, questionnaires for interest, attitudes and
motivation towards chemistry and qualitative instruments such as individual and focus group
interviews. The instruments are described below.
Thermodynamics Academic Achievement Test
The students’academic achievements in thermodynamics before and after teaching were
measured by the Thermodynamics Academic Achievement Test (TAAT), which was developed
by Baran (2013). It has 36 multiple choice items designed to cover all learning objectives. The
validity and reliability studies were carried out with 233 students, and the reliability coefficient
for the test was reported as 0.868. TAAT was applied as pre-test, as post-test and as retention
Interest in Chemistry Questionnaire
The students’interest in chemistry was measured by the Interest in Chemistry Questionnaire
(ICQ). It was developed by Baran (2013) to measure the students’interest in basic chemistry
and thermodynamics and has 34 items. It was applied before and after application of C-PBL
intervention. The participating students were asked to rate their interest on a five-point scale (1
= never and 5 = very much). The reliability study was carried out with 217 students, and the
reliability coefficient for the questionnaire was reported as 0.93.
Attitudes Towards Chemistry Questionnaire
The Attitudes towards Chemistry Questionnaire (ACQ) used in this study was developed by
Geban et al. (1994), and its reliability was reported by the authors as 0.83. The ACQ has 15
positive and negative five-point Likert-type items ranging from strongly agree to strongly
Motivation in Chemistry Questionnaire
The original of Motivation in Chemistry Questionnaire (MCQ) was developed by Glynn and
Koballa (2006). It has 22 five-point Likert-type items to measure the students’motivation in
chemistry, and the reported reliability was 0.82.
After the intervention, two types of interviews (focus group and individual) were carried out.
The aim of the interviews is to find out the students’opinion about C-PBL and also whether C-
PBL is a suitable method or not for them. In the first round, focus group interviews were carried
out to find the effects of C-PBL. In the focus group interviews, the effectiveness of C-PBL
together with the advantages and disadvantages of C-PBL were questioned. Through the
second round, individual interviews were carried out after the analysis of TAAT result. The
questions that the students had difficulty in answering were identified. In individual interviews,
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each of the student’s mistakes in TAAT and the reasons for them were questioned. During the
development stage of interview protocols, in order to achieve the content validity, five
university instructors were requested to read the interview protocols and provide feedback.
The participants of the study were 13 students (7 female and 6 male) taking the course of
Chemistry in a 2-year program of BMedical Laboratory and Techniques^at a state university in
an underdeveloped city at the southeastern region of Turkey in the academic year of 2012–
2013. The group was taught by the first author. Prior to the study, permission was sought to
take part in the study and the whole group volunteered participate. Considering the size of the
group, it was not possible to set a control group. Therefore, instead of setting two groups, the
whole group was taken as an intervention (i.e. experimental) group. Therefore, there was no
control group to identify the effect of C-PBL intervention in comparison to the conventional
instruction. This weakness resulted due to small sample size, and having no control group was
overcome by embedding rich qualitative interview data into the quantitative data. However,
the results should be evaluated with care due to the weak representativeness of the sample.
Development of C-PBL Scenarios
Taking the learning outcomes and the content in thermodynamics (given in Appendixes 1and
2) into account, two different problem scenarios were developed. The main challenge to
develop these scenarios was identifying real-life problems that reflect the thermodynamic
content also known by all students. Then, the problems were selected and the scenarios were
written. With the help of five open-ended questions in the scenario titled BStove and carbon
monoxide poisoning^, it was intended that the students would learn the concepts related to
system, environment, internal energy, the first law of thermodynamics and enthalpy. With the
help of the seventh open-ended question addressed in the second scenario entitled BThe Top
Miracle^, the purpose was to help students learn about reversible/irreversible changes, entropy,
Gibbs free energy and the second and third laws of thermodynamics. A sample scenario is
given in Appendix 3. In order to establish the validity of the scenarios, expert help was sought.
Five university instructors were requested to read the scenarios and provide feedback. Those
feedbacks were generally about rationality of scenarios, such as the amount of substances, why
certain amounts are used, criticisms about the language and some corrections about reactions.
According to the comments, necessary modifications were made.
Implementation of the Scenarios
Prior to the intervention, quantitative instruments were applied as a pre-test. Participants were
informed about the C-PBL and the procedures to be followed. In the first part of the study, the
students were divided into three homogeneous groups, and each student in each group was
provided with the worksheets of the first scenario. The students were encouraged to read the
scenario and share their knowledge. In addition, working papers weregiven to the students. On
the working papers, there were guiding statements like BWhat do we know about the
scenario?^,BWhat we need to know to answer the problem?^and BHow and where to find
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the necessary knowledge^. Following this, the students were observed carefully by the instruc-
tor who tried to clarify the points where students failed to understand. The students were also
informed about available sources from which they could benefit and about the way
they should follow. As it can be seen above, the instructor’s/teacher’sroleinthis
study are listed below:
&Dividing students into homogeneous groups.
&Explaining the teaching process about C-PBL.
&Encourage them to read the scenarios.
&Make them to think deeply.
&Observing the students during the C-PBL process.
&Activating passive students.
&Applying pre- and post-tests.
Assessing the report and presentation
In the second stage of the study, the students were requested to conduct investigations on the
questions in the scenario for a week and to prepare a report and present it in front of the class.
Besides, they were also requested to prepare a detailed written report. To sum up, the students’
responsibilities are listed below:
&Reading and comprehending the scenarios.
&Deciding what to know.
&Try to find possible answers to the problems or ways to solve the problems through group
&Identifying what they need to know to solve the problems.
&Carry out the research.
&Analysing the data and information gathered and reach conclusions.
&Presenting the findings.
&Writing a report about the scenarios’questions.
The same method was also used for the second scenario. Upon completion of the inter-
vention, all the quantitative instruments were applied as post-tests. At the end of the semester,
the TAAT was applied as a delayed post-test again.
Quantitative data were analysed statistically with SPSS© 18. In order to analyse the
data collected via interviews, the content analysis technique was utilized. Content
analysis is a research method for the subjective interpretation of the content of text
data through the systematic classification process of coding and identifying themes or
patterns (Hsieh and Shannon 2005). In analysing the interview data, codes, categories,
themes, explanations and frequencies were identified. The findings were presented in
tables, and descriptions were made where necessary.
The research questions investigated and the data collection tools and data analysis
methods employed are summarized in Table 1.
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This section starts with the presentation of the findings gathered from quantitative measures
and follows with the qualitative data. The conclusions reached are discussed together at the
The Effect of C-PBL on the Students’Achievements and the Retention
The findings obtained from the achievement test and the results of statistical analysis are given
in Tables 2and 3.
The minimum and the maximum of the TAAT were 0 and 36 respectively. In other words, a
student who answered all the questions correctly collects 36 marks, and those who answered all the
questions incorrectly receive 0. When the descriptive statistics are examined in Table 2,itisseenthat
the median and mean scores of the students in pre-test, post-test and delayed post-test were close to
one another for each student and that there was a difference between the pre- and post-tests as well as
Tab l e 1 Research questions, data collection tools and data analysis methods
Research questions Data collection tools Data
1. What are the effects of C-PBL on the stu-
dents’academic achievement and retention
of knowledge of chemistry?
•Thermodynamics Academic Achievement Test
•Individual interviews in which each of the
student’s mistakes in TAATand the reasons for
them were questioned
2. What are the effects of C-PBL on the stu-
dents’interest in chemistry?
•Interest in Chemistry Questionnaire (ICQ)
3. What are the effects of C-PBL on the stu-
dents’attitudes towards chemistry?
•Attitudes towards Chemistry Questionnaire
4. What are the effects of C-PBL on the stu-
dents’motivation for chemistry?
•Motivation in Chemistry Questionnaire (MCQ)
5. What is the applicability of C-PBL to the
undergraduate general chemistry course on
Tab l e 2 Descriptive statistics for TAAT
Test type Number Median XSD SE
Achievement test Pre-test 13 12.00 11.77 2.52 0.70
Post-test 13 23.00 23.77 1.96 0.54
Delayed post-test 13 20.00 19.15 5.94 1.65
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pre-test and delayed post-test scores. In order to test if that difference was statistically significant,
Wilcoxon signed-rank test, which is a nonparametric equivalent of paired sample ttest, was used as
the number of participants was small although the sample was homogeneous (Field 2009). The
findings are given in Table 3.
Table 2indicates that there was a statistically significant increase in the students’achieve-
ments (z=−3.19, p< .05) and that the effect size calculated indicates that the difference
displays a large effect in practice (r=−0.63) (Field 2009). The margins for the effect sizes are
r= 0.10 (small effect), r= 0.30 (medium effect) and r= 0.50 (large effect).
Similarly, when Table 2is examined, it is clearly seen that the average student achievement
was 23.77 following the application (X= 23.77, SD = 1.96) though the maximum test score to
be received from the achievement test was 36. These values show that the students still had
difficulty in understanding the thermodynamics. Careful analysis of the results helped to
identify the topics which were not understood even after the intervention. The results showed
that the topics which were least understood were as follows:
&Calculation of enthalpy, entropy and Gibbs free energy.
&Systems and its surroundings.
&Energy interaction between the system and the surrounding.
When the questions with these sub-headings are examined, it is seen that the students had
difficulty in answering the algebraic questions that involve mathematics. To make this point clearer,
further interviews were held with the students, and they solved the same questions by thinking aloud.
The individual interviews demonstrated that the students had difficulty in answering the questions as
they could not remember the necessary equations and also could not make sense of the mathematical
equations. The following quotes taken from participants S4 and S11 indicates this difficulty:
Miss, I don’t remember anything about this question at all. Delta H is equal, Gibbs
energy is something like that, there was a T but I do not remember. I don’tremember
Tab l e 3 Results of Wilcoxon signed-rank test for TAAT
Sum of rank zpvalue r
TAAT post-test- pre-test Negative ranks 0 0 0.00
Positive ranks 13 7.00 91.00 −3.19
Total 1 3
Negative ranks 10
Positive ranks 3
4.17 12.50 −2.31
Total 1 3
Based on negative ranks
Wilcoxon signed-rank test
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Delta system, was it Delta H- T. Delta…which of these formulas should be used, it is
not that Delta not the products- Delta inputs, logically. I eliminate that, or was it that?
was Delta H it surrounding system, Delta H equal to system, Delta H minus?, there was
something like Delta surrounding. Well, no I don’t remember. (S11).
In addition to a mathematical burden, the analysis revealed that students were
mostly good at questions requiring first Bremembering^(86%), then Bcomprehension^
questions (63%), Bapplication^questions (54%) and finally questions of analysis
As can be seen in Table 2, there was a four-point decrease between the means of
the post-test and the retention test. Although there was a statistically significant
difference between the post-test and the delayed post-test, there is four-point decrease
in the mean scores. This reveals that the students could still remember most of what
they had learned. As a result of studies carried out on the retention of knowledge,
Ebbinghaus (1885) presented a curve of forgetting and suggested that within a month,
individuals could remember 20% of the learned information. However, in the study,
the retention test was performed 4 weeks after the intervention, but the fact that the
participants could still remember most of the acquired knowledge after 4 weeks
revealed that the C-PBL method had an effect on the retention of knowledge.
Effect of the C-PBL on the Students’Interest in Chemistry
A pre- and a post-test were administered before and after the intervention so as to measure the
interests of students in chemistry. Descriptive values were examined through Wilcoxon signed-
rank test to reveal any significant difference between the pre- and post-test interest question-
naires. The results of these tests are given in Tables 4and 5.
When the figures in Table 4are examined, it is seen that there were about 23-point mean
difference between the results of pre- and post-tests in favour of the post-test. However,
Wilcoxon signed-rank test was conducted to find out if the effect of this test on the students’
interest was low, medium or high. The results of this test are given in Table 5.
When the results of Wilcoxon signed-rank test are investigated, it is seen that there is a
statistically significant difference between the pre- and post-test scores in favour of the post-
test indicating that C-PBL had significantly increased the students’interest in chemistry, and
this difference had a medium size effect in practice (r=−0.4).
Effect of the C-PBL on the Students’Attitudes Towards Chemistry
The quantitative findings obtained via the ACQ are analysed. It showed that there was no
difference between the students’scores in pre- and post-tests. This is also confirmed statisti-
cally via Wilcoxon signed-rank test (z=−0.24, p>.05).
Tab l e 4 Descriptive statistics for ICQ
Test type Number Median XSD SE
Interest Pre-test 13 110 108.38 23.83 6.61
Post-test 13 140 131.00 26.17 7.26
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Effect of the C-PBL on the Students’Motivation Towards Chemistry
The statistical data obtained via MCQ were conducted before and after the interven-
tion to reveal the effect of C-PBL on the students’motivation towards the chemistry.
When the findings are examined, it is found that the difference between the pre- and
post-tests was 3.15 in favour of the post-test. However, Wilcoxon signed-rank test was
conducted to check if the difference was statistically significant or not. The results
show that there is no statistically significant difference.
Applicability of C-PBL to the Undergraduate General Chemistry Course
The findings gathered from the analysis of the interviews are presented. The findings
were divided into codes, categories and themes, and their frequencies were given. The
participants were given codes as S1, S2, S3, and so on, to reveal which student
reported each view. Table 6presents finding about the participant’s views on appli-
cability of C-PBL in chemistry class.
The analysis of the interviews revealed three categories related to the applicability
of C-PBL: they are its effect on learning,life skills and cognitive skills.
The Effect of C-PBL on Learning
When we examined the students’views on the effect of C-PBL on learning, three
codes were identified. The learning skills developed by the help of performing
individual investigations and group works was the most common one with 12 out
of 13 students. The following excerpt exemplifies the case.
Well, I think in that way. I don’t like to do investigations much, but thanks to that
method, we could do investigations in many areas and we built communication. One of
the most important things here is that I did that in public. I can say that I challenged my
As can be understood from the comments, C-PBL encouraged students to do
individual investigations, to build intragroup and intergroup communication skills
and to make presentations to help them gain self-confidence. Another finding revealed
via the effects of C-PBL method on learning was permanent learning. Eleven partic-
ipants stated that C-PBL contributed to the retention of knowledge as seen below:
Tab l e 5 Results of Wilcoxon signed-rank test for ICQ
Number Mean rank Sum of rank zpvalue r
Negative ranks 3 5.67 17.00 −2.00 .046 −0.4
Positive ranks 10 7.40 74.00
Tot al 13
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When you read something new or when you have to memorize something, you cannot
learn it; however, when you search for something, you learn it quite well as you wish to
do it (S5)
As you yourself learn or search for it, the learning is permanent. Once you learn, you like
to learn about chemical issues more, & the subjects in this academic term are more
enjoyable than those in previous term. In other words, such daily things were more
attention-taking for me. For example, I would wonder why the snow on the summit of
mountains would melt late and why the snow on the mountain skirts would melt
immediately. Or does the snow we put in a bottle in the mountains melt when we come
down the summit, and so on. Or what kind of gas is it which causes heat poisoning, what
can be done when heat poisoning happens? As these are the things that we live within
our daily lives, we wondered a lot and wanted to learn more. It was quite enjoyable (S1).
In relation to the contribution of C-PBL application of knowledge into real life, ten
participants stated that the C-PBL method helped them apply the knowledge gained in this
course into the real life. Some of the views are quoted below:
As we had a team work, we had wonderful relations with friends. As we were searching
for chemical issues, we realized that all chemical subjects are closely related to one
another. Thus, as we were looking for a subject, we had knowledge of some other
Tab l e 6 The participants’views about the applicability of C-PBL
Theme Category Code f
The applicability of
Effect of C-PBL on learning Learning by investigation 12
Permanent learning 11
Application of knowledge into real life 10
Effect of C-PBL on life skills Communication skills 13
Presentation skills 11
Gaining self-confidence 8
Time management skills 5
Technology adaptation skills 5
Effect of C-PBL on cognitive
Report writing skills 7
Permanent learning 10
Problem-solving skills 9
Weak in/between group
Unequal task sharing between the group
Weak communication due to socio-cultural facts 4
Unfair evaluation of student
Treating the passive group members equally
with the others
Out of classroom activities are not observed and
Teacher competency Competency Competent 6
Not motivating 1
No control or support out of the classroom 3
Number of students
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Of course, we experienced many common points, chemical reactions, enthalpy, self-
generated events, Gibbs, which were the things we should never forget, we all recalled
them, but we realized that we had forgotten many other things that we should not (S4).
The Effect of C-PBL on Life Skills
On the other hand, the findings reached from the students’views indicate students gaining
several life skills through C-PBL. They are listed in Table 6.
The analysis of the interviews held with the participants suggested that the students found
the report writing very beneficial because they engaged intensively with the knowledge need
to be acquired and, therefore, knowledge acquired become more permanent and also helped to
improve more communication skills. The participants expressed their views as follows:
We exchange information; we talk to one another, but it is a necessity to note it down to
make it permanent knowledge (S1)
Miss, do you remember what was mentioned in that text; as you go up to the summit of
mountains, snow melts later. I mean I did not think never before on why snow melts in
the skirts but remains longer on top. I used to wonder, and I was interested, as well.
There is a saying, spoken words fly away but written words remain. Therefore, to make
knowledge permanent, it needs to be written (S3)
The above quotations point out the importance of writing reports for effective learning. In
addition to this, S11 expressed the need for writing the knowledge in reports in a more detailed
way as in the following statement:
Miss, when we expressed our thoughts in spoken language, we could not get into much
detail. However, when it was time to prepare a report, we realized that we could get into
the every detail of the subject. In other words, we could focus on the report with eyes
As can be concluded from the statements of the participants, it was found out that C-PBL
improved the participants’views on how important reporting in written format for learning
It was also revealed that C-PBL not only contributed to learning but also helped students to
improve their self-confidence and control their feelings as seen in the below quotation:
I consider it to be very useful for communication. I had prepared a slide. I think the slide
was a little bit long. When my slide was interrupted, two friends laugh at me. So I got
angry with them. But I tried to keep my anger considering that I was in public, and I did.
Then, when I was telling about the subject, some other friends intended to interrupt, but I
managed to keep going without any hesitation in a fluent manner (S12).
Besides, some of the participants suggested that group work increased motivation as
But we achieved it together. Group work was very good. My motivation to learn
chemistry has increased (S7).
I think there was a good communication in our group. When one of us could not do it,
another member was just there to make it up. Nobody escaped from the task to leave it
on others, or nobody thought that they are always the one to do the task or it is time for
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others to do it now. Our communication was strong. Thanks to this communication, I
much motivated to learn (S12).
We can conclude here that group works contributed to the students’interaction and
increased their motivation to learn chemistry. It could also be stated that C-PBL had a
positive impact on developing the interaction between the groups as well as in a
group, and hence motivation to learn. This intergroup interactions have also enhanced
the retention of acquired knowledge. The following quotes support this view:
When I first saw that problem, I found it very confusing and I was not sure if I would
solve it. However, when my friends could solve the problem, I realized how simple it
was. Therefore, I tried to solve the problems after some preliminary studies, and I
achieved it. This was the most positive effect on me (S9).
For example, group members would come and ask some questions. What do you think?
What will happen? What do you think about that? And so on. Under normal conditions,
I would not take care about those questions, but thanks to group works, we met them out
of school and worked on the questions as well (S7).
This finding was also one of the goals of C-PBL as a constructivist learning
method. This finding ensures that this goal was achieved. On the other hand, the
participants reported that one of the significant effects of C-PBL on communication
was developed through the presentations made. They claimed that presentations
increased their self-confidence and self-expression. They put their views into words
Wel l , I didn’t have any problem with self-confidence, but I realized that I didn’thavea
good level of dialogue with people at all. Thanks to this study, I developed self-
confidence which allowed me to express myself clearly (S9).
Firstly, it gave us a positive impact in expressing ourselves. For example, we tried to
explain the concepts clearly in front of our classmates and you, miss. This indicates that
both my friends and I could develop a fruitful communication with the society (S11).
Moreover, it is found out that communication skills also helped the student’s ability to
transfer scientific knowledge. The students expressed their views on their skills in transferring
their scientific knowledge as follows:
That’s well done, I think. Because I prepared a long presentation, but I realized that a
presentation shouldn’t be that long; the audience could get bored. I understood that the
information must be expressed more clearly and directly (S12).
The students who thought C-PBL helped acquire the skill in using time effectively
expressed their feelings in the quote below:
Yes, I also think that it contributes because I went on the stage first and summarized the
scenario in five minutes. Then, S9 called us one by one to inform who would speak on
which subject. S12 did the presentation. This increased efficiency in using the time (S6).
One of the skills targeted in C-PBL was related to effective use of time. Table 6shows that
5 out of 13 students developed this skill. Besides this, the students who were not able to use
technology for learning expressed accepted that they learned how to use technology effective-
ly, thanks to C-PBL. The students’statement regarding this was as follows:
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In fact we didn’t previously know how to use the Internet for our studies. Thanks to this,
we accessed several research oriented websites, databases and therefore were able to
read a lot of thesis, research reports and articles (S7).
The Effect of C-PBL on Cognitive Skills
The contribution of C-PBL to cognitive skills is also questioned through the inter-
views. The findings suggest that students were able to establish a connection between
C-PBL’s contribution to dealing with real-life problems and increasing their curiosity
through problem solving. They found the problem scenarios interesting and
The thing to explain here was lectured very joyfully. Chemistry can be boring for most
of us. But these scenarios were interesting. Therefore, working on it was also interesting
The scenarios were interesting and motivating. With the subjects told and the questions
asked, it evoked curiosity in us (S12).
There were some beliefs that as one of the most efficient materials of C-PBL, the scenarios
had a positive effect on the students’curiosity. One of the students stated that scenarios
increased curiosity as quoted below.
Being honest, I didn’t like chemistry before, I like it now just because of my teachers. I
attend classes only because I like teachers. But the example of stove poisoning was
much more interesting because people can face it the real life. It was positive because of
The Shortcomings of C-PBL
Although there were several advantages of using C-PBL as a teaching approach, there were also
issues that arose during interviews, which need to be dealt with care. These issues are brought
together under the theme called BShortcomings of C-PBL^. The shortcomings were generally
related with the in/between group interactions and also evaluation as seen in Table 6.
Although all participants reported that C-PBL method increased communication among
them, there were cases where students were complaining about the some problems that arose
due to weak interaction between students in the same groups and some socio-cultural
factors resulting in unequal task sharing and contribution to the group work among the group
members. S13 reported his views as follows:
In fact it is a good method, however, it seems it makes lazy some of the members, some
of the students stay in comfort. I follow the groups, some of them are taking it seriously
but others do not; 1–2 hours of work would be enough for them (S13).
Some of the students stated that one of the reasons for weak communication was due to
socio-cultural beliefs. There were female students who were married, and for the local
community, it was unacceptable for a married woman to come together out of school to work
on the project with particular male group mates. This issue was evident in the following two
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If I hadn’t been married and we had communicated better and I would have done my
If the other two group mates had been female it would have been better for the group
The unfair evaluation of student performance in C-PBL is seen as another shortcoming of
C-PBL by the students. The students’opinion about this issue is given below.
If it is implemented individually, it would be much better for me. Because we can’tsee
each other often as I stay in a different dormitory, I could not do my part better.
According to me, you must give the grades given to me to S2 and S7 as I could not
displayed the same performance as they did (S5).
The Competency of Teacher in C-PBL
The opinions about the instructor’s competency are categorized in three codes. Almost half of
the students found the instructor competent, only one of the students thought that the instructor
was not motivating. Three students felt themselves in a difficult case with no support of
instructors during out-of-classroom activities (see Table 6).
Although half of the students found the instructor as competent, there were students arguing
that the instructor was not motivating enough. Students stated that the instructor should
motivate them as well as supervise outside the classroom. Their views are given below:
My view is, beyond the education system in Turkey, for example, they newly started it…
for example, I think, student and teacher interaction should be efficient and students
should be able to contact the teacher anytime. It shouldn’t be restricted within the school
limits. For example, in case of a problem, we should be able to contact and interact, and
have dialogues concerning the problems and improvements (S4).
Teachers should promote the students more. Else, students should be free to choose
whether they would like to work in a group or individually. When there are students who
want to deal with a subject on his own, s/he should state that, I mean the students should
say, BI want to work alone. I think that would be better.^(S8).
As could be seen from the quotes above, the role of the instructor for out-of-school hours
have been criticized. Since the instructor was not able to provide support during the students’
out-of-school hours, it caused them to be alienated from the process. Therefore, it is thought
that the instructor needs to be more supportive both in and outside the classroom.
Conclusions and Discussion
The Students’Achievement and Retention of Knowledge
The findings of the study indicate that C-PBL improves students’chemistry achieve-
ment based on the pre and post-test results. This result is in fact an expected outcome
of any kind of teaching. However, if the possible maximum total score of 36 that
could be taken from TAAT is considered, the average post-test TAAT score of 23.00
indicates that students still have significant difficulties in learning basic concepts and
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the ideas of thermodynamics taught. Table 2shows the descriptive statistics for the
overall students’achievements in TAAT from pre-test to delayed post-test. As seen
from the Table 2, increase in the students’level of achievement is not satisfactory.
Students showed a moderate achievement through the implementation period. To be
able to understand one of the major reasons for this moderate achievement increase, it
is necessary to understand the particular cases for the participants. The participating
group has never experienced a teaching approach like C-PBL before. This is the first
time students came across this kind of a student-centred teaching approach. Therefore,
it was difficult for them to familiarize the methods and get used to a self-directed
learning environment. As students are familiar with lecturing, mostly, they rely on the
provided knowledge in a structured manner by the instructor. They have difficulty
finding the necessary information and comprehending basic concepts and ideas. As a
result of this, they failed to crystallize the main ideas and develop a conceptual
understanding. Therefore, they are mostly successful in questions requiring lower
order cognitive skills such as remembering. On the other hand, there are serious
difficulties with questions requiring mathematical knowledge and skills. The students
who are in this particular group come from different types of high schools such as
science, mathematics and social sciences backgrounds. In undeveloped cities, such as
Hakkâri, even after C-PBL, social sciences background students still have difficulties
solving mathematical problems. One of the main problems is that the study was
undertaken in a short time and in that, short-term students who had difficulties in
mathematics could not change their mind or could not improve their mathematical
skills in that time. It can be showed as one of the limitations of our study. Therefore,
mathematical knowledge and skills necessary to solve the problems were challenging
for those students. As no extracurricular activities to remove the mathematical burden
were provided during the intervention, it was thought that the students were less
successful in solving problems requiring mathematical skills. Therefore, it would be
advisable to provide extracurricular activities and apply C-PBL long term, to remove
mathematical burden from the students in these kinds of activities to see the real
effect of C-PBL.
The research literature indicates mixed results about the effect of problem-based teaching
on the students’achievements. While there are studies in which academic achievement is
evident (Nowak 2002;Overton2001). Moreover, C-PBL is thought to be more effective in
learning and as well as retention of what has been learned. Context-based materials are
attracting the students’attention and helping them to see the relationship between subjects
taught and its implication in everyday lives. Moreover, on one hand, it helps students to build
self-confidence in small groups, on the other hand, it motivates them to work cooperatively on
activities outside the classroom.
The Students’Interest, Motivation and Attitudes
Concerning the students’interest in science, C-PBL has a positive affect (Harland
2002). This is because students work on problems originating from their real lives.
Improving student’s interest in chemistry is important. There is mounting evidence
that student’s interest in science is declining (i.e. Osborne et al. 2003)andteachers
complain about the lack of students’interest in chemistry subjects. However, teachers
also admit that students like to relate chemical principles to everyday things.
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According to Bennett et al. (2005), context-based approaches are approaches adopted
in science teaching where contexts and applications of science are used as the starting
point for the development of scientific ideas. One of the aims of these approaches is
to enhance the students’interest in science subjects (Bennett and Lubben 2006;
Summerfield et al. 2003). The increasing interest in chemistry from the results of
this study (see Tables 3and 4) also confirms this theoretical perspective. Improvement
in interest studying chemistry is important as it affects the motivation of the students.
Adversely, an individual with low interest has more problems in motivation. There-
fore, it is important to develop teaching environments that students find interesting to
secure the strong future of chemistry. In this sense, C-PBL is one of the best
approaches in teaching chemistry.
In contrast to the students’increasing interest in chemistry, the students’attitudes towards
chemistry and motivation to learn, stayed unchanged before and after the C-PBL interven-
tion. This is understandable as both motivation and attitudes are affective behaviours
requiring longtime treatment to see a significant lasting effect, although interest can be
changed in a short time interval. This result is in parallel with the previous literature claiming
that it is not easy to change attitude and motivation (Wijnia et al. 2011) through short time
interventions, although there is contrasting evidence that C-PBL practices have positive
effects on students’attitudes (Gutwill-Wise 2001;Overton2001) and motivation (Klegeris
and Hurren 2011).
Applicability of the C-PBL
Results about applicability of the C-PBL into practice are much more encouraging
than the results for academic achievement and skills related to affective domain such
as attitude and motivation. It is evident that group work improves the students’life
skills such as communication, report writing, presentation, time management and
adapting to contemporary technology. Also small-group learning activities have shown
that they lead to positive outcomes such as higher achievement, increased positive
attitudes towards the subject area studied, higher self-esteem, greater acceptance of
differences among peers, greater persistence, greater retention and enhanced concep-
tual development across content areas and in a wide range of educational settings
(Qin, Johnson & Johnson, 1995; Tobias, Chubin & Aylesworth, 1995; cited in Towns
et al. 2000). C-PBL is a strategy that motivates the students to work cooperatively
and improves communication skills and lifelong learning habits (Coca 2013). As
arguedbyDeWetandWalker(2013), group work helps students to understand
several difficult ideas easily, hence they prefer to work in groups rather than individ-
ually. However, there are shortcomings of group work that can be seen as barrier to
create effective groups such as unequal sharing of the workload among the group
members and also some socio-cultural barriers that arose in our findings (see Table 6).
Writing a report is an activity in which students need to work either individually or
as a group. Report writing is a written communication skill of which students need
throughout their lives. Besides being an effective assessment tool, it also provides
objective reporting skills (Waters and McCracken 1997). While writing a report,
students need to carry out analysis and synthesis to organize what to report in a
meaningful way. Therefore, it develops higher order cognitive skills such as analysis
and synthesis as well as evaluation. It has been noticed that with the help of C-PBL,
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students have improved those skills. Similar findings also reported by King (2009)in
which a context-based learning approach is implemented.
Developing problem solving skills and self-confidence is important in terms of today’s
society. C-PBL practices used in this study aimed to help students develop problem-solving
skills and self-confidence. The interview data presented in the findings indicate that they
develop problem-solving skills which also improve their self-confidence. Problem-based
learning literature (i.e. Adnan et al. 2011) reports a similar finding that students who are
exposed to the problem-based learning method have higher self-confidence levels when
compared to students trained with conventional teaching methods.
Based on the qualitative data reported in the findings, it can be argued that participants had
significant experiences in time management and this helped them a lot to improve their time
management skills during investigations, presentations and report writing and working in
groups that C-PBL necessitates. These results do not mean that they fully developed those
skills: however, it is clear that C-PBL practices helped students to improve and/or gain time
management skills. In similar studies, it has been put forth that implementing the problem-
based learning method helped students gain time management skills (Chin and Chia 2004;
Pinheiro et al. 2012).
Collaboration has a great impact in the C-PBL approach. It affects the performance
of students seriously. However, the results indicate that some students do not collab-
orate enough during group work and this also creates discomfort among the students
as the evaluation is made according to the whole group performance. This is an issue
in other PBL studies reported in the literature. Weak communication channels and
distribution of people in time and in space make it more difficult for PBL groups to
carry out cognitive activities and communication activities when constructing shared
knowledge in virtual environments (Miao and Haake 2001).
In this study, a noteworthy reason for weak communication in a group during out-of-
school times was due to the socio-cultural facts. There were some married female
students in some groups, and they were having difficulty coming together out of school
times to work on the project as their families were not in favour of letting them to work
together with male group mates out of the school premises. The university in which the
study was performed is located in a small city at the southeastern part of Turkey. In small
cities, there are fewer opportunities for students to come together and work out of school
hours. Therefore, students mostly come together to work in their dormitories or their
private houses. Particularly, if you are a married female, it is hardly accepted by the local
community to come together with unmarried male group mates in a male-dominated
environment. This problem was not thought about at the stages of group forming. In all
group work studies, as suggested by the literature, heterogeneity was taken into account
in terms of skills as well as gender. However, gender heterogeneity was found as a
barrier in this particular case for an effective group work.
Since student-centred approaches put the students in the centre, throughout those
approaches, students become active researchers, and the teachers act as facilitators. In
PBL, teachers behave as facilitator and mentor. Compared to the teacher-centred
approach, this is quite reversed, and therefore students have difficulty in getting used
to these roles of teacher. Therefore, it is important to see how students perceive the
new role of teacher in C-PBL.
Regarding the instructor role in the C-PBL approach, students found difficulty in
finding support out of school times. In conventional lecturing approach, the
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responsibility for learning rests mainly with the instructor; therefore, students are able
to reach the information they needed directly. However, in a context-based approach,
the responsibility for learning is shared by instructor and learner, requiring instructors
to change their teaching activities into shared or loose control strategies (Putter-Smits
et al. 2012): therefore, students had difficulty accepting the new role of the instructor.
The instructor behaved as a guide rather than controlling the learning process of the
students. But, students were expecting more direct help than guidance. Moreover, in
some cases, this new role of instructor was perceived by the students as an inade-
quacy of the instructor.
Another shortcoming of C-PBL is the assessment of students in a collaborative
group work, because it is difficult to say that every student’s contribution is equal.
So, the assessment is more difficult. It gives more workload to instructors. As Davies
(2009) claimed, there are disadvantages and equity issues in terms of assessment.
Students who are weaker can have their abilities effectively masked by more able
members of the group, and capable students are left unstimulated. It would be helpful
if the instructor defines responsibilities of group members, without losing control
during the process, or require more assessment materials such as evaluating each
other, which motivate an individual to think independently.
Brush and Saye (2000) claimed that successful implementation of PBL methods
requires teachers to assume a guiding role and to simultaneously attend to many
different aspects of the classroom. Chowdhury (2013) suggested that chemistry
teachers must know and use their content knowledge in a variety of ways to motivate
needs of students, to help facilitate the students’understanding and to provide a
challenge for them. To solve the shortcomings of C-PBL, it can be suggested that
instructor should be careful about social backgrounds of students and try to make the
homogeny (about knowledge) groups related that background. Instructor should be
careful about passive students and should motivate them to the lesson. For that aim,
the instructor should try to know the students’social real life and create the context
of problems close to that background.
Implications for Teaching
This is a small-scale study, and the results are based on a single intervention. We
acknowledge that it is rather hard to reach generalizable conclusions out of such
small-scale studies. However, this does not mean that the conclusions reached and the
implications suggested are not useful for practice. The implications suggested are
based on the data we gathered. Therefore, it would be helpful for those audiences
who may have experienced similar cases. In the light of the findings, it could be
argued that the C-PBL approach induces students to become autonomous learners and
promotes investigation and life skills as well as helping to achieve the required
knowledge, although it is not at an expected level. The achievement test results
indicate that student only could reach the two thirds of the expected level of academic
achievement. Based on this result, it could be suggested that in a C-PBL teaching
approach, instructors need to be more helpful to the students to ensure that the
required knowledge has been gained. Otherwise, students may go out with weak
knowledge of the subject taught, although they may be in advantageous position in
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terms of gaining some investigation and life skills. This brings the discussion to what
role the teacher has to take in cases where students are not able to reach the accepted
or expected scientific level of concepts taught? Whether to insist on a guidance role
and allow students to grasp the ideas or switch to the traditional instructor role? This
is not an easy question to answer. Based on the experiences that came out of this
study, we believe that at the initial stages of the trial of a student-centred approach,
teachers need to be more flexible and available to help students form their knowledge
and then gradually let them investigate by themselves. If the instructor is not available
out of school hours, particularly if they have to learn abstract concepts, as in this
case, students feel themselves alienated and helpless. They do not know what to do
particularly if they are coming from a long tradition of conventional teaching prac-
tices. Therefore, intensive student-instructor interaction at the initial stages is neces-
sary. However, once the students get used to the method, they start to overcome this
problem and start to organize questions to discuss with the instructor in the allocated
As in the case of this study, it is clear that C-PBL could be an alternative to
lecturing, even to teach, difficult ideas like thermodynamics in chemistry if we can
put it into a real-life context that students are familiar. However, this creates another
difficulty. The context may vitiate from region to region, state to state and even
between the cities. Therefore, it is not easy to create context for every student that
makes sense. Using C-PBL requires contextualization of the concepts, and this
requires new skills for the teachers. Therefore, in this process, the teacher and the
researcher collaboration is essential.
After implementing C-PBL on thermodynamics in chemistry, an increase in the
students’interest in both thermodynamics and chemistry, in general, has been
witnessed. Based on this finding, it could be argued that subjects like thermodynamics
could be effectively taught through a real-life context, with more concrete materials
that could be developed to increase the students’interest in chemistry. Since there are
insufficient resources (books, sample scenarios, videos etc.) in order to help C-PBL
practices become common, materials need to be developed, piloted to establish the
validity and made available to teachers and students.
In addition, the C-PBL approach encourages passive students to take part in group
work and promote individual activities in order to have each member in the group
participate in the study. However, teachers should be more careful about equal sharing
of the responsibilities within the groups because less motivated students may experi-
ence problems in collaboration, task sharing and interaction within the group mem-
bers, which would affect their achievement levels. One more issue with the group
forming is the issue of taking the heterogeneity of gender into account in different
environments in which there are some socio-cultural barriers as mentioned above. If
there are some cultural barriers, they need to be taken into account. Insisting on
heterogeneous groups in terms of gender may cause collaboration problems as it was
the case in this study.
Finally, concerning the effect of C-PBL on the students’motivation to learn and attitudes
towards chemistry, much longer interventions are needed. This study is implemented over 4
weeks’time only on one unit of chemistry. To be able to see a real effect on affective
dimensions like motivation and attitudes, semester or year long practices are needed. Although
context-based approaches are accepted as increasing the motivation to learn, this is also quite
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related with how it is implemented. In the hands of inexperienced teachers, this effect may not
be seen in a short while as teachers are learning and adapting themselves to this new method.
Therefore, it is suggested that much longer implementation time is necessary.
Appendix 1 (Learning Outcomes)
1. Realizes the importance of the relationship between system and surrounding
2. Classifies systems with the variables of heat exchange, temperature, pressure and volume
3. Explains the internal energy of a system on the basis of atoms/molecules
4. Associate the internal energy of the constant volume and constant pressure systems with
the mechanical energy and heat exchange.
5. Describes the first law of thermodynamics
6. Gives examples to the field of thermodynamics applications in daily life
7. Explains the enthalpy change (dH) via reaction temperature (qp)
8. Relates the reaction enthalpy changes with Bstandard formation enthalpy changes^
9. Correlates the enthalpy change of a reaction with intermediate steps of enthalpy change
10. Establishes a relationship between the enthalpy changes in chemical reactions and the
11. Examines the concept of spontaneous/nonspontaneous change
12. Explains spontaneous processes tend to achieve a state of minimum energy and gives
13. Gives examples to spontaneous changes that do not meet the minimum energy
14. Explains the concept of entropy, on the basis to Bthermal energy^and Bprobability^
15. Establishes a relationship between entropy changes (ΔS) and the spontaneity
16. Interprets the second and third laws of thermodynamics
17. Describes the total entropy change of the system and the universe via BGibbs free
18. Examines the spontaneity of chemical reactions via Gibbs free energy
Appendix 2 (The Content Covered in Thermodynamics)
The Curriculum in Thermodynamics
1. Systems and types of energy
(a) System and surrounding
(b) Internal energy
(c) Heat and work
(d) The first law of thermodynamics
2. Enthalpy and changes in the system
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(b) Standard formal energy
(d) Bound energy
(a) Spontaneous and nonspontaneous processes
(b) The second and third laws of thermodynamics
(c) Gibbs free energy
(d) The relation between the spontaneity of system and Gibbs free energy
Appendix 3 (Sample Scenario)
Stove and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
On a cold winter day Mrs. Emine wants to make tea on a coal stove, so she puts 3 kilos of
coal into the stove and ignites the coal. She puts the tea pot onto the heater.
After a while, her daughter Derya comes home from school and sits by the stove, stretches
her hands towards it to warm up a little after a stormy snowy day. Seeing the boiling teapot on
the stove, she thinks "how it is possible that a little heater like this can warm up the whole
room and boil the water in the pot". She falls asleep by the hot stove. After a while she wakes
up and feels the room and herself cold and thinks, "why nobody did invented a coal that burns
out forever". She brings three more kilos of coal and fills up the stove and lies down on the
cushion by the stove. After a while Mrs. Emine backs to home and sees her daughter sleeping
by the stove, and calls on her. When her daughter does not respond, she goes to her and tries to
wake her up. Despite all her efforts, she can’t wake her up, and immediately calls emergency.
When the health care team arrives and examines Derya, they diagnose that she suffers from
carbon monoxide poisoning. They take Derya to a hospital for treatment.
Considering the story above, please answer the following questions. You can make use of
the internet, course books and other recourses to make comprehensive and extensive
Res Sci Educ
1. What is the reason for Derya’s poisoning and how does this poisoning happen?
2. How the heating takes place? What kind of energy transfers and how this energy transfers
take place between the stove and its surrounding?
3. Write the reaction that accompany to the coal burning and balance the reaction. Calculate
enthalpy changes accompanying to the 3 kg of coal burning. Accept the formula and
molecular weight of coal as C135H96O9NS, Ma= 1906 g.mole-1.
4. Other than coal what other alternative fossil energy sources can be used for heating, and
what are the reactions that accompany during their burning? What is the enthalpy changes
accompanying to the 1 kg of these fuels and compare them with the coal?
5. What do you think about the possibility of producing an ever burning coal? Discuss this
question considering the first law of thermodynamics?
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