Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Science Education, Mallinson Institute

First Advisor

Dr. Megan L. Grunert

Second Advisor

Dr. William W. Cobern

Third Advisor

Dr. Heather L. Petcovic

Fourth Advisor

Dr. James J. Kiddle


A convergent mixed methods research study was used to investigate whether or not students who participated in the problem based learning (PBL) environment improved their self-efficacy beliefs (SEBs) in and attitudes toward chemistry. The study also investigated the students’ views of the PBL environment. The Chemistry Attitude and Experience Questionnaire (CAEQ) was used as a pre- and post-test to determine changes in students’ attitudes and SEBs. The PBL Environment Inventory (PBLEI) was used to investigate students’ views of the PBL environment. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to re-validate both instruments with the study group: students in general chemistry laboratories at a Midwestern university in the USA. Interviews were used to augment the quantitative data. Paired sample t-tests were used to determine the difference in means between pre- and post-tests. Analysis of variance was used to determine the influence of confounding variables. Relationships amongst instrument variables and PBL, SEBs, attitudes, and PBLEI were investigated through multiple correlations and multiple linear regressions. A positive relationship was observed between PBL and students’ SEBs using both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data showed no influence of PBL on students’ attitudes. Surprisingly, the qualitative data indicated improved students’ attitudes toward chemistry. Results from both qualitative and quantitative data also showed that students had a positive view of the PBL environment. Correlation and regression results indicate a positive relationship between variables of the PBLEI. Furthermore, a positive relationship was observed amongst attitudes, SEBs, and students’ views of the PBL environment. Regression data showed that scores on SEBs and attitudes contributed significantly to the explanation of each other. SEBs scores also contributed significantly to PBLEI scores. However, no significant contribution was observed between attitudes and PBLEI.

Generally, our results indicate that PBL has a potential for improved students’ outcomes in the affective domain including attitudes toward chemistry and self-efficacy beliefs. This study may add knowledge to research on the effects of PBL instruction and strengthen existing information in the PBL and affective domain. From the results of this study, chemistry laboratory instructors may be well informed whether or not to adopt PBL as a mode of instruction.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access