Throughout the last ten years teaching both chemistry and Advanced Placement Chemistry I have realized that the concept of equilibrium does not receive enough attention in my first-year chemistry course. Sure, the concept of equilibrium is a topic mentioned and identified throughout the course however the dialogue in regards to conditions that would shift the chemical system is minimal at best.
Michelle Okroy's blog
With the end of the school year approaching, educators are not only developing their semester exams, they are preparing for the upcoming school year as well. Although each individual educator has their own approach to improving their curriculum, many will be spending their time off aligning their curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards. Currently eighteen states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, with additional states developing their own modified version. The idea of revising curriculum for each and every course can be daunting as educators try to identify a common theme that can be applied throughout the entire department. So where do we start? How do we thread a common theme for the professional development provided in our subject area?
While attending a professional development session last year I was introduced to the Talk Science Primer, developed by the Inquiry Project and TERC. Although the research and sample population targeted educators and students grades three through five, I decided to review the material to analyze if it had any value in a chemistry classroom.
Are students reflecting on what their calculated values indicate? This question constantly runs through the minds of chemistry teachers across the country. Recently educators have seen shifts in instruction that promote connections to real-world phenomena using conceptual depth in understanding.
“So what corners of the periodic table do I have to memorize in order to get an A on the trends quiz?” This was a question that was asked by one of my students at the beginning of our periodicity unit. For countless educators we teach chemistry because we have a passion for trying to understand the world from an atomic level. However many of our students have extrinsic motivators which result in attempts to find shortcuts to recall the material. If we want to avoid responses like the one stated above we have to identify if we are asking thorough questions when assessing our students.
Instead of focusing on an instructional label, why don’t we focus on what we are trying to accomplish with our students? Our classrooms should be a platform for students to actively explain science practices using evidence and no matter how you define your instruction, we cannot deny our students this opportunity. With the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, our students will be assessed based on performance expectations that not only link disciplinary knowledge, but scientific practice, and crosscutting concepts as well. “These performance expectations guide the development of assessments: when a standard encompasses all three strands, then so must the assessment. It will no longer be possible to meet a standard solely by recall of factual knowledge.” (Cooper, 2013).
As school districts across the country approach the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, students will be required to develop models to illustrate what occurs at an atomic level as well as apply various mathematical representations in order to explain a science-based concept. However, what opportunities are we providing our students to allow them to explain what they know about a concept? Students should be provided with regular opportunities to develop and explain concepts, which in turn will allow teachers to formatively assess and address misconceptions.