EMAIL: Santiago.S.Urena@gmail.com – Guillermo.SandiUrena@ucr.ac.cr
CURRENT POSITION: Professor, School of Chemistry, University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica
Recent and future events, Exemplar articles, and CV available in separate pages.
2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table! To celebrate it locally, a group of undergraduates are working on a historical and scientific analysis of the rearrangement of the periodic table proposed by Costa Rican scientist Dr. Gil Chaverri in the early 1950s. Dr. Chaverri’s work was published in the Journal of Chemical Education (download the article here). This study analysis the outcome of Dr. Chaverri’s work through the scientific lens (e.g. how is his arrangement different from others and what contributions does it make?) but it also explores his endeavor as a human experience: what motivated his work? what was he like as a scientist and as a person? what can current generations of Costa Rican scientists learn from him and his approach to science? What was it like doing science in Costa Rica over 65 years ago? Outcomes of this work will be short talks, videos, posters, and lesson materials for secondary education and college General Chemistry. Participants are already scheduled to present their work locally and internationally.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH INTERESTS:
We are interested in designing strategies to assess the effectiveness of instructional methodologies and learning environments (such as academic labs and research experiences) to promote intellectual skills associated with scientific development. One of our major interests is research on learning in the chemistry laboratory. For this purpose, we have used phenomenological approaches to study what happens in different laboratory in an attempt to gain understanding of learning in this complex environment. In related work we are using Ellen Langer’s Mindfulness Theory as framework to analyze qualitative data from our own studies and from research published over the past 20 years. Through this approach, we intend to capture empirical evidence that is diverse in terms of institution, student body, instructor expertise, and nature of intervention utilized. Characterization of these learning experiences with this unique framework will advance our understanding of what makes learning in the laboratory more effective.
In the past we have carried out a series of studies to investigate the ‘self-explaining effect’ in large enrollment General Chemistry courses. The development and assessment of metacognition and its impact on chemistry problem solving continues to be central in our work. Our research uses both quantitative and qualitative inquiry approaches, as well as mixed methods designs. Following this line, we have developed in-class activities to be used in large enrollment courses to promote attention, participation, interest, and production of explanations all of which have been shown to benefit learning. We are assessing students’ perceived effect of such activities via qualitative and quantitative approaches.
Our undergraduate research program strives to develop a research agenda constructed from the students’ perspectives and informed by their experiences as key participants in their own education. Findings may inform and impact undergraduate chemistry instruction. Currently, we are working on a study that intends to characterize conceptualization and use of Lewis structures by students across the chemistry curriculum and experts (faculty). The ultimate goal of this project is to propose a pedagogical approach to improve teaching/learning of this topic. In this project we have involved chemistry and science ed double majors. A second project looks at the implementation of Green Chemistry in the first year chemistry laboratory program. We introduce Green Chemistry as a new course topic but also as an innovative, modern way to conceptualize the practice of chemistry. The practicals are all reformed to align closer with Green Chemistry principles and the research goal is to assess how the curriculum affects entering students’ perception of chemistry as a socially responsible and environmentally sound endeavor.
The exploration of how students use online faculty rating sites and their perceived usefulness were among the initial ideas generated in consultation with the undergraduates. Besides assessment of instruction, undergraduates have focused on study habits of General Chemistry students, and participation of foreign-educated faculty in chemistry education in the US and its impact on curriculum. Recently, a group of students with a keen interest in History of Chemistry have investigated the occurrence of Multiple Discoveries in chemistry and the way they are presented in General Chemistry, as well as their potential as pedagogical tools. In a current study, undergraduates seek to characterize the use and conceptualization of Lewis structures by chemistry majors (novices) and instructors (experts). A cross-sectional approach furnishes qualitative and quantitative data of students at four stages in the program. In a second phase, this study intends to develop (design and pilot test) a pedagogical approach to effectively facilitate learning of the topic. This study contributes to international chemical education by analyzing evidence in light of findings drawn with student populations in other countries.