Teaching science is fun.
Teaching science is challenging.
Teaching science is hard.
Teaching chemistry is even harder.
Why do we need to study science? Do we really need to understand chemistry?
Chemistry allows us to understand the world around us – the macroscopic world seen with our naked eye and the microscopic world only visible with aid from a microscope. One fundamental difficulty most chemistry students struggle to grasp is the interplay between the macro and micro worlds (Sirhan, 2007, p.3).
Fellow Educators, let’s stop and take a few minutes to reflect and acknowledge some areas that our chemistry instruction may be weak. Through thoughtful and active reflection we can continually improve our own teaching strategies and strive to offer an engaging curriculum that can support our wise learners and provide our foolish learners with the means to be wise too.
Chemistry science teachers are in a unique position. We can view our complete chemistry knowledge and easily identify the key concepts that link all of our chemistry understanding together. The logical relationships between our chemistry knowledge are clear and easily understood by the expert teacher. If our chemistry curriculum is going to effectively present chemistry principles to our students, we need to shift our organization scheme away from the perspective of our expert teachers and instead frame it to meet the needs and understanding of our learners (Sirhan, 2007, p.6).
We need to provide our students with the opportunity to confront their misconceptions and revise their scientific understandings. This can be challenging. Before we can successfully lead our students to put their misconceptions aside, we need to first examine our own understandings and address any personal inconsistencies (Sirhan, 2007, p.14).
Unfamiliar and misleading vocabulary can have multiple meanings when comparing daily usage with their usage in our science classrooms. This is a very real challenge making it harder for students to properly organize their science knowledge (Sirhan, 2007, p.7).
Students need motivation. They need to want to learn. Providing our students with realistic real-world case studies and using them for learning opportunities can help keep our students interested and engaged in learning (Sirhan, 2007, p.9).
How can we ensure we are providing meaningful learning experiences for our students? We need to shift our point of view and examine our teaching practices thru the eyes of our learners (Sirhan, 2007, p.14).
How do we do that?
Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? Got any questions about questions?
A fundamental building block of the world of science is developing explanations about the world around us. Scientists ask a lot of questions. Then they revise what they know and ask even more questions. Using those questions as a guide they work to discover more about the world around them. If questions are that important, then maybe it’s important to examine how we currently use questions in our instruction and how we can improve their use.
News flash: We need to directly teach our students how to ask questions and how to use problem solving methods. This will require our teachers to dig into the methodology behind how we learn and will naturally shift our teaching strategies to a student-centered environment (Ahmadi, Hamidi, Mohammadzadeh & Ahmadi, 2010, p.87).
“Good science demands two things: that you ask the right questions and that you get the right answers.” H. Orr
To do “good science” do you have to get certain answers? Negative. Doing “good science” requires that we ask high-level questions about abstract concepts. This is a challenge for most students. Before teachers can provide effective methods for their students to improve their questioning skills, teachers must first examine their own attitudes and inconsistencies (Eshach, Dor-Ziderman & Yefroimsky, 2014, 67-68).
Providing students with effective question-asking strategies requires teachers to shift their priorities to focus on their students’ learning perspective (Eshach, Dor-Ziderman & Yefroimsky, 2014, 79).
Let’s revisit our opening quote.
“Education: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding”. Ambrose Bierce
Teachers, let’s focus on choosing and providing the best learning opportunities for all of our students to grow into wise life-long learners.
Ahmadi, F., Hamidi, F., Mohammadzadeh, A., & Ahmadi, M. A. (2010). Effectiveness of Problem Solving Method In Dynamics And Academic Achievement of High School Students. AIP Conference Proceedings, 1263(1), 83-87. doi:10.1063/1.3479900
Eshach, H., Dor-Ziderman, Y., & Yefroimsky, Y. (2014). Question Asking in the Science Classroom: Teacher Attitudes and Practices. Journal Of Science Education & Technology, 23(1), 67-81. doi:10.1007/s10956-013-9451-y
Sirhan, G. (2007). Learning Difficulties in Chemistry: An Overview. Journal Of Turkish Science Education (TUSED), 4(2), 2-20.