Posted tagged ‘Chemistry’

5 week report


I am now five weeks into using the POGIl approach and I love it.  The students are engaged and thinking.  Most of the students have a positive attitude about the process.  I am staying at the same speed as the other chemistry teachers and my average test score is comparable.

There are problems as well.  First, I am struggling to lead the students back to the models instead of to the text or leading their thinking.  This is what I have heard from other teachers who are using POGIL.  I think this is where the workshop training would help tremendously.  I have also found that some groups are not working together as well as they should.  Some students feel they can get by without doing anything and others feel that the group is holding them back.  I think I have not been emphasizing the importance of the roles enough.  I plan on changing groups (keeping some together) and changing the format so that each person is more engaged.  I am struggling to lead a discussion after the learning workshops.  I think as I build that skill, the students will feel more involved in their roles.

Overall, I am very pleased at this point.  I can’t wait to see how they perform on the midterm and assess the format against my own classes from the past.

Do you have any suggestions to make POGIL more effective?


Schedules and Daily Quizzes


So, I have really gotten a feel for how I am going to run this course.  We are just over a week into class and things have been going very well.  The comment was made today that the class time seems to fly by.  I was really excited to hear that.  I have noticed that I am keeping pace (+/- 1 day) with the other (standard courses).  This is good news when it comes to implementing this inquiry approach to all of my sections of chemistry.

The daily format works as such:

  1. Daily Quiz
  2. Review Daily Quiz
  3. New material (lecture or discussion so far, we try a small POGIL approach tomorrow)
  4. Process Workshop (group/lab work)
  5. Wrapup
  6. Assign Homework

The biggest change I have seen in my students is that they are keeping up with their work.  The daily quizzes are wonderful for keeping track of where the students are and showing the students the important topics.  I give them a quiz each day over the topic of the previous day.  I have one rule when writing one of these quizzes: The question must not be a throw away question.  That is, it must relate to the real-world and be in depth.  This is harder to do than I first thought.  Because each quiz is only one or two questions, the students take more time and effort into answering it than they would a 50 point test.  They take the time to reflect on what the question in asking.  Today, the question was:

A student was working in the lab.  She mixed two beakers of different volumes together.  Using the data below, what was her final volume.

Beaker A – 98.53 mL

Beaker B – 0.2 L

This combined significant figures and metric conversions.  The discussion after the quiz focused on the significant figures as must students had not considered them.  This as been a big problem in our chemistry classes.  During the lab we worked on later (pg 8 in the course guide), the students considered the use of sig figs in their answers.

So far, the quiz scores have been good and, more importantly, improving.

That is my big news for today.

Do you do a daily quiz in your class? What are your rules for writing good questions?

Snow Days


A quick personal note today.  Hopefully you noticed that I haven’t added anything recently.  This is because I have had no new data to post.  The semester just finished last week.  I put out a quick survey of my students.  I found that after an introductory chemistry course, my students felt unsure about the nature of science and how chemistry relates to their lives.  They have a basic understanding of the theory of chemistry.  

The new semester started on Monday.  I began to implement my instructional strategies, but I haven’t seen my students since as we had a small snow storm.  That is 3 inches of snow followed by 2 inches of ice, then 3 inches of snow.  The temperature is low enough at night that everything refreezes.  Instead of teaching, I have been hanging out with my six month old beagle puppy.  Anyone have ideas on domesticating a wild dog?  If you know Beagles, you’ll understand what I mean.


My Beagle, PVnRT

My Beagle, PVnRT



So, hopefully, I will be able to close the week with my students.

On top of this the Ohio Department of Health will be inspecting our school in February for school safety (part of Jarod’s Law).  I will be helping the administration prepare for this.  Prepare for the first entries involving my classroom experience sometime mid next week.

Four Types of Inquiry


I came across this great article in International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education titled “Facilitating Chemistry Teachers to Implement Inquiry-Based Laboratory Work” (2007, 6: 107 – 130).  Basically, Dr. Derek Cheung implemented inquiry labs into seven classrooms in Hong Kong.  Cheung,  a Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, inserviced the teachers on inquiry and met several times with them throughout the research.

My goal next semester is to implement POGIL activities, inquiry lab work, and practical tests.  I have focused by reading on POGIL and I felt that this would be a great source for inquiry labs.  It was!  I wanted to share some of the major points of the article.

There are four levels of inquiry:

  1. Confirmation Inquiry – verifying concepts by following a procedure
  2. Structured Inquiry – following a procedure to find an answer
  3. Guided Inquiry – Teacher provides a question, students design an experiment to find answer
  4. Open Inquiry – Students ask the question, then find the answer

Cheung recommends that most of class time should be spent in guided inquiry. This also fits with the POGIL approach, but focusing on the laboratory.

 He then gives six criteria for implementing these labs:

  1. The laboratory work should be designed as a guided inquiry rather than an open inquiry
  2. The guided inquiry must engage students in solving real-world problems
  3. The solution to the guided inquiry should not be predictable
  4. The teacher should require a few groups of students to present their experimental plan orally so that a feasible procedure for collecting data can result from a consensus approach
  5. Teacher questioning is critically important during student oral presentations
  6. Assessmesnt criteria must be given to students in advance

I think these two lists provide a decent framework for creating an inquiry based chemistry classroom.  I hope to focus my classroom within the structured inquiry and guided inquiry bands.  However, I hope to implement one or two open inquiry labs.

I also found some other good information from Dr. Cheung concerning inquiry lab examples and multiple choice assessments.

What type of labs do you do in your classroom?  Share them here!



The first part of a lab report is usually called the purpose.  So I thought I would start this site off by first citing my purpose.  I have loved chemistry since I first learned the elements in junior high.  I fell in love with the idea of discovering the unknown.  From that moment on, I have wanted to share my passion for this creative science with the world.  That is why I love teaching.  Everyday I get to spread my love for chemistry.

Lately, I have felt drained.  I feel that I HAVE to teach, as oppose to get to teach.  I felt the burden of preparing students for AP Chemistry as well as college.  But the beginning of this month, I attended the NSTA regional conference in Cincinnati.  My mind has been reawaken to my former passion.  More importantly, I learned that the educational theory I learned in college could be used in a chemistry classroom.  Now many of you may think me naive for not seeing that before.  You may even be wondering what I have been doing as a teacher before now.  Let me tell you, I have lectured, planned traditional labs, and handed out plenty of practice problems.  But I want to go beyond how I was taught chemistry.  My goal is to learn, utilize, and demonstrate for my fellow chemistry teachers, that good educational theory can be applied to the chemistry classroom. 

Now that I have delivered my testimonial about being “born again” as a teacher.  Let me give you some theory.  I do not want to just give opinion.  I am a researcher.  I do not form ideas without a sufficient input of data.  So, during this renesaunce period, I have been reading and writing, and reading some more.  The first article I came across is the first I want to share with you.  It is The Education and Training of Chemists Report of the Chemistry Education Advisory Board Published by the Royal Institute of Chemistry in January 1944.  Sixty-five years ago this report was written to explain how to deliver chemistry content to middle school, high school, and college students.  I want to share some excepts.

Up to the age of 15 (or 16) […] For such as pupil, an increase of “factual” scientific knowledge is less important than the development of intelligence, integrity of character, adaptability and the desire for more knowledge. (Pg 1)

I find it interesting that in 1944, it was recognized that desire for more knowledge is more important that scientific knowledge in middle school.  The biggest complaint I hear from teachers in the high school is that the students are unmotivated.  If I spend most of my time motivating students, then I am spending less time teaching content.  I will not go into a great depth about middle school education, but I greatly encourage you to read the entire article.  

Getting into the high school years, the article continues:

The kind of instruction in Natural Science, including chemistry, to be given to those who main interests are not scientific, will depend to some extent of the kind of instruction given in the pre-school certificate years […]  The course should have as one of its main purposes the appreciation of the values and uses of science, and should not be over burdened with detail.  To make such courses of instruction successful will certainly not be easy… (pg 5)

In the case of pupils who desire to specialise in Natural Science, the greater part of the school time must necessarily be devoted to instruction in science […]  In all such courses it is our view that less importance should be attached to the learning of facts and more to the development of the powers of observation and of inductive and deductive reasoning.  By such courses a pupil will be better prepared either for continuing his studies at the university, or for entering industry. (page 6)

I hope you are as shocked as I was to read this coming from 65 years ago.  I was taught that inquiry was the new approach to learning.  It was recommended that we lecture less and have more hands-on time in 1944.  But many of us, including myself, have not been doing this.  The article goes on, but my point has been made.

In the posts that follow I hope to show how inquiry can be effectively used in the secondary and post-secondary classrooms.  I will be experimenting with my own students throughout the spring semester and posting my results.  I hope that you will follow along and learn with me about this exciting “new” way to teach chemistry!