Support material for a one-semester introductory chemistry course using the textbook Chemistry in Context at the University of Maryland College Park as a part of the introductory physical science component of the Maryland Collaborative for Teacher Preparation. The material was developed and delivered with funding from NSF DUE 9255745. The author has included several ancillary categories of instructional methods and materials including computer technology. There is support for reflective and constructive learning through cooperative group activities as well as traditional and alternative methods for assessment.
Describing, using diagrams, progressing from natural vocabulary to words that arise from within the science community, measurement, density, chemical and physical properties, conservation of matter, heat, change of state, molecular models and visualization; Extend and apply understanding to other than contextual experience; Gain experience in cooperative teamwork including scientific communication skills.
Target Student Population:
College students who are prospective K6 teachers.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Algebra and the ability to graph, observe, and describe.
Type of Material:
Basic chemistry exercises.
The material would be useful as a starting point for college faculty who teach chemical principles to college students who will become elementary school teachers. It is also a reflection on alternative methods of instruction,
learning modes, and the use of technology that would be most interesting for anyone interested in alternative ways to teach chemistry to non-science majors.
The program relies very heavily on the use of computers, several types of software (some generic and others specific) as well as Internet capabilities.
The resources recommended are Brooks-Coles Beaker and MacMolecule, a public domain 3D molecular visualization and animation tool that has been superceded by tools such as Rasmol, Chime, or CN3d, see http://www.umass.edu/microbio/rasmol/othersof.htm. Basic chemical apparatus and materials will also be required to complete the laboratory component.
Evaluation and Observation
This course shows important concepts and topics in general chemistry selected to be appropriate for college preparation of pre-service elementary teacher. The essence of chemical concepts in a very practical and useful mode of instruction is the most obvious strength. There are many abstract conceptual principles, which must be understood, even at the introductory level of chemistry.
For most individuals who have not developed a working knowledge of basic scientific skills and information, the author offers a unique presentation. Content is useful for small-group cooperative activities that involve working with information sources, data, observations, hands-on materials, computer-based activities, interspersed with small-group and whole-class discussion.
Those students who are not comfortable with various use of computer software might find the task of completing labs difficult. This is but a minor problem.
The instructor has provided excellent guided procedures for carrying out technical operations. Materials shown were used from Fall of 1994 to Spring of 1996 when the instructor admits to having never taught the non-science major course before. It would be useful to know what activities were used with most success after several years experience with this student population.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
For faculty who have never taught the non-science major course for college preparation of pre-service elementary teachers, the Chem Class Log included here provides an introductory reflection of suggestions for adapting the Chemistry in Context program for use with this student population. Course objectives are addressed clearly. There is a good effort to relay a conceptual understanding of the content as the goal of the course. Several of the assignments and laboratory activities require a period of student reflection and introspection to awaken any pre-knowledge or misconceptions that the may exist.
Students are provided opportunities to interpret results and make applications to other situations. Given the fact that the course is focused on instruction of non-science majors,
the course content and methods of teaching accurately address the needs of this category of learner. The presentation of the course content is well documented. Screen captures of actual work pages provides clarifying reinforcement for the written description.
A more extensive system of scaffolds for practice and authentic assessment may be needed to help prospective K6 teachers become confident in their understanding of chemistry and the particulate nature of matter. But the content selection shown here is a step in the right direction. The course relies heavily on the use of several specific software packages, some of which are out-dated. Access and up-dating of ways to use these programs would help other faculty edit the course framework for personal preferences and local concerns.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The materials described were used with the published the Chemistry in Context, a program that is used by many faculty who teach this target student audience. The web site is well organized to the point that the initial visitor can easily maneuver through the links and pages. All links appear to work well. From the samples of software captured and portrayed at the web site, one can get a very good feel for the actual user interacting in real time with the electronic assignments.
No up-dates since 1996 are apparent and the software described is out-dated. MacMolecule could be replaced by other free (public domain) molecular visualization software to study the three-dimensional shapes of molecules.
Other Issues and Comments:
This web course is several years old, but the example provides a starting point for college faculty to reflect on how to teach chemical principles to college students who will become elementary school teachers. It would be interesting to know how the interactive computer simulations using the Brooks-Coles Beaker worked for college preparation of pre-service elementary teachers,
and whether a current version of the software is still being used in this course. The document does a wonderful job presenting an alternative method of teaching a traditionally difficult content course. The author provides a journal of daily activities and reflections which provide for the reader a sense of what works well and what needs to be adjusted to provide a more suitable and effective learning experience. All pages are easy to read with excellent graphics. If you are searching for methods of teaching chemistry through group activities, reflective thought questions, deep and critical thinking assignments, building skill in applying learned concepts, portfolio assessments and integrated technological applications then ignore the dated software because you will find something here worth using if you teach a similar course. The emphasis on conceptual understanding and effective extension and application of learned material is especially important for those individuals who do not yet have this level of scientific literacy.