My journey in laboratory teaching started in Analytical Chemistry Practicum unit. Analytical chemistry practicum is one unit which equip students to have competences in analyse the chemical substances with both qualitative and quantitative methods. In analytical chemistry practicum, most of my students did not understand the concept beyond the practical work. I found that my students only followed the procedures without understand what they are doing. This unit requires the students to have the analytical thinking level to understand the concepts which most of my students didn’t like it. It was a problem because most of chemistry concepts need an analytical thinking. How can they teach chemistry if they did not like chemistry? Furthermore, I also found the same cases when I taught my students at high school, they did not understand the concepts when they had to solve the problems in chemistry. They only remember the formula but they did not understand the concepts.
In laboratory, it is important for the students to understand the concepts beyond the experiments. I don’t want my students trap in the technical procedures within the meaningless learning experiences. Therefore, I interviewed my students before they did the experiments in laboratory. Throughout the interview, I could explore the thinking process in my students’ mind to understand the concept. It also encourages my students to reflect on their thinking process. The strategy that I applied is metacognitive skills which encourage my students to think about their own thinking. The questions within the interview will help them to find the concepts and analyse the cognitive process in their mind. As a result, they had better understanding. It also encouraged them to ask other questions, they became more curious to understand the concepts. It is an important indicator for me as an educator since I want to encourage my students as a lifelong learner. I could not give all knowledge, but if they are lifelong learners, they will be motivated to develop their learning experiences in their lives. Furthermore, metacognitive skills are not only for laboratory activities but also for other teaching and learning activities which I found useful to apply in my teaching practices. Therefore, one of my research problems focuses on metacognitive skills.
I also found other problems in teaching analytical chemistry practicum which related to sustainability education such as the experimental methods, safety and environmental issues. Even though, chemistry could be one of the causes of environmental problems. But chemistry also could play important role to solve environmental problems and support sustainability of education. Green chemistry, also called sustainable chemistry, is a chemical philosophy within the set of principles in chemical process which reduces and eliminates the use and generation hazardous of chemical substances (Anastas & Warner, 1998). This green chemistry concept helps to reduce waste, effective practicum in laboratory, support safety management, and reduce the cost because of using less quantity of chemical substances. Furthermore, since my journey at SMEC, I found that this approach could be powerful to empower students to active participate in the sustainability of environment. Moreover, this approach also can be applicable in education, such as including green chemistry in curriculum, development of teaching resources, and other laboratory activities. Finally, my journey for applying both metacognitive skills and green chemistry approaches influenced me to explore and think reflectively. I hope that it is not only powerful for me as an educator to improve my teaching practices but also other educators.