Chemistry for all

A guiding principle that I have is that chemistry is for all students.  So, I want to make my classroom as hospitable of an environment as possible.  In college, I developed an interest in women’s studies.   It happened in my freshman English course and resulted in taking some courses later on.  Last week when I came across an article from a 1999 issue of the Journal of Chemistry Education titled, “What is Feminist Pedagogy? Useful ideas for Teaching Chemistry,” (JCE, vol. 76, No. 4) I was more than intrigued.  As it turned out, this article was focused on developing a chemistry classroom in which everyone benefits.  Isn’t that what we are all trying to do?  Someof the useful ideas were:

  • bringing in student ideas
  • cooperative learning
  • de-emphasizing the role of the teacher as mentor
  • providing an environment where students can find a voice

These are also some of the guiding priciples behind POGIL.  The authors also suggested the developement of Problem Based Learning (PBL) as a successful approach.  By applying the ideas of inquiry into natural sceince, we not teach the national standards, but also benefit all students and especially those marginalized students.

From that same issue of JCE, I found another article relevent to this discussion.  “Improving Teaching and Learning Though Chemistry Education Research: A Look to the Future.”  This article suggests that “one reason why student’s find chemistry difficult is that in the laboratory, they make observations at the macroscopy level, but instructors expect them to interpret their findings at the mircoscopic level.  The author suggests a possible pattern for overcoming this problem.

For example, a common laboratory activity at the secondary level that students do not understand well is the electrolysis of water.  […]  Students could be asked to draw partile pictures of equal samples of the hydrogen and oxygen in the two test tubes and relate this to the volume of the two gases.  they could be asked to calculate the volume of water that would be decomposed to produce the volume of gases that they had collected, and then to compare their calculated volume of water to the difference in water volume of the system before and after electrolysis. (pg 549)

This step-by-step processing and going back and reviewing the data is the basis of POGIL.  In fact, both of these articles drive to the theory behind POGIL.  POGIL is a form of inquiry that allows students to communicate and become authorities within small groups while building up to the major conceptual ideas.  If you are unfamilar with POGIL, check out I will post more info about it as well as the material I will use in class next semester, after winter break.

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