One reason so many students find chemistry difficult is the abstract nature of the concepts. Research based on the constructivist model of learning has shown that as an educator teaches, the learner makes meaning of the content by drawing from their background knowledge, attitude, abilities and everyday experience and this often results in a different construct than that of the teacher.
This introductory lesson uses a crosscutting concept, structure and function, as a means to model pre-conceptions of a voltaic cell. A phenomena is used to pique curiosity and engage students as they progress through the unit.
Card sorts are a great way to achieve a number of classroom objectives. They can be used as a review activity or they can be done during the middle of a lesson as a type of formative assessment. Sorts can encourage students to work with other students or can even be used as a type of exit ticket. I decided to use the strategy about two thirds of the way through a unit on covalent and ionic compounds and lewis structures. I knew there were items we did not cover in the sort but I was curious to see how they would approach these unknown topics.
Looking over my student's papers, there may have been more misconceptions created because of the way I planned the curriculum. In all of the experiments students can see and observe that not all of the crystals or material dissolves yet the water starts to conduct. In their minds there is evidence that they believe either something DOES dissolve or it does NOT. Clearly, partial dissolving is initially too much to consider.
Science is cool. It allows us to step back and reason why things are the way they are. Most importantly it fuels us to keep questioning why. Asking why is an important aspect of learning, and is a huge part of the way classrooms run, on average a teacher will ask 300-400 questions just in a day (Vogler 2008)! However, what happens when a student does not have the correct answer to a question? Are they deemed wrong? Is it a misconception that we must fix?
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.
The new AP Chemistry Curriculum and the NGSS both focus on developing deep conceptual understanding. In order to achieve this, teachers must identify the objectives they need to teach to and stockpile a good assortment of conceptual questions for formative and summative assessments to support those objectives.