Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jeffrey R. Raker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James W. Leahy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Luanna B. Prevost, Ph.D.


approaches to learning, education research, mentoring, peer-led team learning


Social constructivist learning is a goal in many STEM programs. The goal of this dissertation is to shed light on what that pedagogy looks like in the context of organic chemistry courses and by peer leaders whose job is to implement this pedagogy with general chemistry and organic chemistry students. Learning is complex; the social constructivist ideas presented in this dissertation, however, are a straightforward means for promoting learning. Qualitative and quantitative methods used to explore social constructivist learning are outlined.

Three investigations were conducted: First, approaches to learning by students completing the first semester of a yearlong organic chemistry courses were studied. It was found that students who utilized a deep approach trended more positively with regards to examinations scores and persistence with the course. Second, the roles perceived to be enacted by peer leaders in the context of a flipped-peer-led team learning course were studied. Reflective journal entries suggest that mentoring is a common role for peer leaders despite that mentorship is not an explicit role that the peer leaders are trained and expected to fulfill. Finally, two scales were developed to measure the self-efficacy and beliefs about teaching and learning of peer leaders. These scales serve as a quick quantitative measure that can inform peer leader training.

Collectively, the results of these studies suggest that more attention should be focused on promoting and evaluating social constructivist learning in the context of general chemistry and organic chemistry courses. When the shared knowledge approach is adopted, studies suggest that more meaningful learning occurs. Tangible implications are offered for how this dissertation work can inform such adoption and reform efforts.