Bobbi's Portfolio Page
I am a third year chemistry teacher for the Wappingers Central School District in Dutchess County, New York. I earned my B.A. in Adolescence Education:Chemistry from SUNY New Paltz in 2011. I am married, have two daughters, and enjoy living next to a horse farm with a scenic view. My family currently has three cats that we have adopted over the past 16 years. I enjoy logic puzzles, jigsaw puzzles and baking (and eating) all kinds of sweets. My favorite television show is Jeopardy and one of my favorite vacation spots is Cape Cod.
Chemistry is a difficult subject for many students because it requires them to visualize what they can't see. It is difficult to make connections between what is happening on the microscopic and macroscopic levels. Finding the right tools to aid students in visualizing the microscopic behavior of atoms and molecules is crucial to helping them understand important concepts in chemistry. This can often be a challenging endeavor for teachers. The purpose of this mini-course is to expose teachers to various types of models, computer simulations, and software programs that can help students visualize and understand important concepts in chemistry as well as other sciences.
· What are models? Why should educators use them?
· Types of visualization tools available to educators
· Benefits and limitations of models
· Using models to address misconceptions in chemistry
- Recognize the advantages of using models in the science classroom
- Explore the various types of visualization tools available to science educators
- Compare and contrast the benefits and limitations of various types of models
- Develop lessons that include the effective use of models to enhance visualization
- Evaluate the way models are currently used for instruction and determine how they can be used more effectively (i. e. more student-centered activities vs. direct instruction)
Needs Assessment and Analysis of the Learner and Context
1. Instructional Problem
Understanding many concepts in chemistry requires that the learner be able to observe changes in matter and energy in the macroscopic world and explain them in terms of what is happening at the microscopic level. This abstract act of transforming sensory information into chemical processes, formulas, and symbols makes learning difficult for many students (Wu, Krajcik, and Soloway, 2000, p. 3). In other words, students must be able to visualize what they cannot see in order to gain an accurate understanding of many chemical principles. Studies have shown that both physical models and computer simulations can be effective visualization tools to help students develop better conceptual understanding in chemistry (Wu, 2004, p. 20).
Exposing students to visualization tools like computer animations, videos, and ball-and-stick models in a passive manner may not help them to gain a better understanding of a scientific concept. Educators must design instruction that requires students to be actively involved with these tools in problem-based scenarios (Rapp, 2005, p. 54). Some of the benefits of interactivity include the immediate feedback resulting from student manipulation of models and the students’ ability to control their learning through repetition and inquiry. Students who have received training and feedback from their instructors on their use of visualization tools have attained higher scores than their peers on grade level 9-12 science assessments (Hsieh and Cifuentes, 2006, p. 145).
2. What is to be learned?
Participants of this course will learn about the benefits of using models as visualization tools to teach chemistry. Through class discussion and various activities, educators will be able to see both the advantages and limitations associated with different types of models. Participants will become familiar with ways to incorporate various visualization tools into existing lessons or develop new lessons designed around the use of specific models. Participants will reflect on their own teaching practices and identify ways that they can adopt a more student-centered approach to instruction by placing the visualization tools in the hands of their students in addition to using them for demonstrations during direct instruction.
3. The Learners
Participants in this course will include both pre-service and current physical science and chemistry teachers in grades 7-12 and other professionals in the field of education who are interested in learning how models can be used to help students visualize and understand concepts in chemistry. Ideally learners should have some experience running computer simulations and/or using chemistry drawing programs, but this is not necessary for successful completion of the course. The activities in this course have been designed with multiple learning styles in mind and include resources that teachers can use as visualization tools in their own classrooms.
4. Context for Instruction
This mini-course will be taught entirely online and emphasizes learning through independent exploration as well as through collaboration and discussion. Learners will need both a computer and internet access to participate in the course.
5. Exploring the Instructional Problem and Solution
Throughout this course, the participants will explore the various types of models available to teach chemistry. Learners will be encouraged to evaluate and discuss resources that they currently use in the classroom setting and how they meet student needs. Participants will also be introduced to new visualization tools and asked to consider how they might also increase student understanding. Special consideration will be given to how a particular model may help to address common misconceptions in chemistry.
6. Goals of this Mini-Course
The main goal of this mini-course is to familiarize the participants with the various types of visualization tools available to help students understand abstract concepts in chemistry. A second goal is to help secondary science teachers to identify the benefits and limitations associated with different models, including physical and computer generated models. A third goal is for course participants to compile a list of various free online resources that include videos, simulations, animations, and chemical drawing software applications that they would feel comfortable integrating into their own lessons to enhance student understanding.
***In order to reach a broader audience, I have extended the scope of the course to include the use of visualizations in various branches of science***
After completion of this mini-course, participants will be able to do the following:
1. Explain in detail some of the advantages that their students can realize from using visualization tools when learning scientific principles
2. Using the internet, locate and create a list of at least five computer-based simulations, animations, or virtual labs that could be used to supplement their current instruction
3. Compare and contrast a given set of visualization tools and identify the benefits and limitations associated with each
4. Given a hypothetical scenario, choose at least two different visualization tools and discuss how they could be used to enhance student learning
5. Within the constraints of the resources available in their classroom, develop a lesson that includes student use of models to increase understanding of a particular scientific concept
6. Given time to reflect on their personal teaching experiences, evaluate their current use of visualization tools in the classroom and identify various ways that they could be utilized more effectively
The overarching goal of my mini-course is for participants to choose to incorporate the use of visualization tools in their classrooms and to encourage student use of these tools to aid in their understanding of scientific concepts.
Unit 1 – Theory
Participants will recognize the potential advantages of using models (visualization tools) of various types in the science classroom.
Lesson 1 – Using Models in Science
Lesson Objectives – Participants will research various types of visualization tools and be able to explain in detail the advantages that their students can realize from using models when learning scientific principles
Essential and Supporting Prerequisites – Participants must be able to relate new knowledge to their personal experiences and express their ideas clearly in writing
Lesson 2 – Examining Various Types of Visualization Tools
Lesson Objectives – Participants will compare and contrast a given set of visualization tools and identify the benefits and limitations associated with each. Given a hypothetical scenario, participants will choose two different visualization tools and discuss how they could be used to enhance student learning
Essential and Supporting Prerequisites – Participants must be able to think critically and apply new knowledge to a hypothetical scenario
Unit 2 - Practice
Lesson 3 – Current Practices in Science Education
Lesson Objectives – Given time to reflect on their personal teaching experiences, participants will evaluate their current use of visualization tools in the classroom and identify ways that these tools could be used more effectively. Participants will explore how visualization tools are currently being used in science education, and will become familiar with the NGSS's emphasis on student model development
Essential and Supporting Prerequisites – Participants must have a desire to reflect on their own experiences in order to improve their teaching practices
*Added the NGSS component to emphasize the importance of student-centered use of models*
Lesson 4 – Application: Creating a lesson incorporating visualization tools
Lesson Objectives – Using the internet and other available resources, participants will locate and generate a list of at least five computer-based visualization tools (simulations, animations, virtual labs, etc.) and five physical models that could be used to supplement their current instruction. Participants will then within the constraints of their current classroom setting, develop a lesson that includes student use of models to increase their understanding of a particular scientific concept
Essential and Supporting Prerequisites – Participants will have the ability to navigate the internet, conduct successful searches for information, and a willingness to adopt a new pedagogical approach to their instruction if needed
References and Resources
1. 1. Hsieh, Y.-C. J., & Cifuentes, L. (2006). Student-generated visualization as a study strategy for science concept learning. Educational Technology & Society, 9(3), 137-148.
2. Rapp, David N. (2005). Mental models: Theoretical issues for visualizations in science education. John K. Gilber (ed.), Visualization in science education, 43-60. Netherlands.
3. Wu, H.-K., Krajcik, J., Soloway, E. (2000). Promoting conceptual understanding of chemical representations: Students’ use of a visualization tool in the classroom. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. New Orleans, LA. 4/28-5/1/2000.
4. Wu, H.-K., & Shah, P. (2004). Exploring visuospatial thinking in chemistry learning. Science Education, 88(3), 465-492. Doi: 10.1002/sce.10126