Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sally S. Hunnicutt


Three research projects, each focusing on a different aspect, development of a ZnO thin film experiment, student’s cognitive engagement behavior, and building of a faculty network, are presented in this dissertation.

In the first project, a physical chemistry laboratory experiment was developed to answer the question, “How do electrons move in a solid?”. The experiment structure follows the POGIL-PCL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning - Physical Chemistry Laboratory) model. Students begin by using the PhET “Quantum Bound States” animation to compare energy levels for single atoms to energy levels of a lattice containing many potential wells, and they incorporate that model with the “particle on a line” model in the lab by investigating the change in zinc oxide (ZnO) bandgap energy with nanoparticle size. Ultimately, students synthesize ZnO thin films from nanoparticles and measure the resulting bandgap of the film.

In the second project, a novel methodology was developed to capture student’s cognitive engagement behavior in an active learning environment. Graphical analysis of student discourse in a POGIL - physical chemistry classroom was utilized to observe the student - student and student - instructor interactions. Network graphs that diagram student - student interactions are generated by diagramming the oral turn-taking behavior of student discussions in class employing the tools of graph theory. The resulting network graphs were characterized by centralization and reciprocity network measurements. Students' interactions and cognitive engagement behaviors were further characterized using the ICAP (Interactive, Constructive, Active, Passive) framework. Patterns observed in student or team behavior in context of facilitation suggested that our methodology could be used to uncover instructional strategies that enhance or repress student engagement in the classroom.

In the third project, a physical chemistry faculty network was analyzed for its sustainability. The POGIL-PCL project led 11 faculty development workshops during 2012-2016. The workshops provided the opportunity to develop, review/test and introduce POGIL – PCL experiments to approximately 80 physical chemistry faculty members from a variety of institutions across the United States. Participants were surveyed following workshops and according to survey results, faculty members who participated in more than one workshop tend to adopt and implement POGIL-PCL experiments. Further, faculty feedback from surveys were evaluated to understand their experience with POGIL-PCL experiments for the sustainability of the community of workshop participants utilizing graph theory. Next, affiliation and collaboration networks were constructed and analyzed to study the strength of the POGIL- PCL community. This study also emphasizes the importance of a network that lies beyond a single institution for improving instruction and student learning of physical chemistry.


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Available for download on Wednesday, May 07, 2025