The New Course Description
Traditionally the Chemical Sciences course was taught as a lecture and a separate laboratory. The course included topics from atomic structure to drugs and medicines (appendix #7). In the new course, the entire class of about 50 students met in a "lecture room" two times a week for an hour and fifteen minutes. The class was divided into two "lab" sessions, which met once a week for three hours (from 4:00-7:00 p.m.) The only scheduling change to accommodate our new course design was to schedule our lab time one hour earlier (3:00-6:00 p.m.).The new course contained all the same topics except medicines and drugs (appendix #8).
As a result of discussions and planning the NOVA team modified the Chemical Sciences course to include the following innovations.
I. Science clubs at local elementary schools to involve college students with elementary school children; there were a total of five schools and over 220 elementary children.
II. The total integration of "lecture" and laboratory"to assure best use of time and relevance of activities.
III. A new text book approach to model teaching and stimulate higher level learning.
IV. Papers on people in science so that our students have an appreciation of the human dimension of science, and have models to share with children.
V. Directed inquiry laboratory activities to have students experience science investigations.
VI. Collaborative test taking to promote the view that sharing and talking enhance learning, and that fellow students are sources of information and support.
VII. Speakers to offer some real-life examples of professional chemists and elementary science teaching.
VIII. Weekly journal entries (blue books) so that students can share insights and questions with the instructors and get regular feedback.
IX. Team teaching which provides students with more than one outlook and approach to teaching and chemistry.
"I enjoyed the Science club requirement, before this I really had no idea what it would be like to be in a classroom . I learned a lot about myself."
To enhance students learning and to give them a taste of teaching children, our students were asked to share their science learning with children at local elementary and middle schools (appendix #9). Two of their laboratory periods required them to go into a school and share science with kids there.
After-school science clubs were established at four elementary schools in the first quarter, each with about 25 students. The program was so successful and popular that a fifth school asked to be involved and was included in the second quarter. The after school science clubs were set up to be at nearly the same time as our scheduled 3:00 p.m. lab. The clubs met after school for one hour for four weeks (one school made it five weeks by setting up a visit to our university). The site teacher did all the school site coordination and management of the club, and monitored our students. Our students worked in teams to share activities with ten to fifteen kids. One pair of students from our course was assigned at each school as coordinators. They organized the Cal Poly Pomona student groups for site visits and they were present at each of the after school science clubs to provide additional support whenever needed. The coordinators appreciated the opportunity to be able to observe the variety of activities done in the science clubs.
Activities done by elementary school kids in the science clubs were chosen, as much as possible, to reflect and enhance the Chemical Sciences course material. Therefore, many of our students took science club activities from the Wonder Science book. Each pair of students prepared activities including the teaching methods and materials. The activities done ranged from making rain sticks to studying the properties of water using games.
During the first quarter some clubs were held on days other than those scheduled for our class. These were not continued because of low student participation.
In an end-of -course survey, more students indicated "science clubs" as "the best part of the course" than any of the other components.
The schools and the site teachers were all very excited about the science clubs. One site teacher said, "This has been a wonderful experience for our students. They look forward to it with delight."
At least part of the designated lecture time was used having the students carry out chemistry activities which illustrated, reinforced, or brought into question some basic chemical concepts. These types of activities were traditionally done only during the "lab" time. For example, students prepared slime the first week of class as a way of investigating some of the properties of liquids and solids. They then took the slime home for further study. Students learned about acids and bases and the pH scale through the analysis of household materials using purple cabbage juice. They also carried out chemical tests for carbohydrates and proteins on foods. Students also prepared ice cream where they learned about the relationship between energy and changes of state. Students used molecular models to learn about the three dimensional aspects of simple molecules, about isomers in organic chemistry, and about polymerization reactions. (appendix #10)
The lab time, with its smaller groups, was sometimes used for instructional dialog, for presentations of the people paper poster, for discussions of chemical issues related to the environment or the public policy, and finally for school club visits.
The integration of lecture and laboratory has enabled us to model the important and necessary connection between chemical content knowledge and its practical applications. The inclusion of discussions, presentations, and school site visits as part of the laboratory also reinforces the idea that chemistry is more than just chemical facts. This integration is also an effective way for professors to model the active learning pedagogies that pre-service elementary teachers can use when they go into the classroom.
The Wonder Science book will be a great resource. The Wonder Science book will be extremely useful in the classroom .Valuable resources
We believed that the text should not only be a source of basic chemical facts but also provide real life practical applications of these principles. For this reason we chose the Wonder Science book published by the American Chemical Society and the Usborne Chemical Dictionary as texts for the course. The Wonder Science book is a collection of science activities for adults to share with kids. It is a resource that students value and retain after the course is over. The dictionary was chosen because it provides quick, straight-forward answers to student questions. We also developed supplemental handouts and worksheets for many of the topics for added reinforcement throughout the course.
Weekly homework assignments were made from the Wonder Science text (appendix #11). These ensured that students made the connection between abstract chemical concepts and their physical manifestations in the real world. These assignments also reinforced the idea that chemistry is accessible to all. Often times these assignments were focal points for discussions in the class.
I think the people paper was on of my favorite assignments It is important for us to learn about the contributions of minorities and women, especially living in Southern California, which is culturally diverse. The people paper is a great way to form a connection with chemists and to discover why some people enjoy chemistry.
Science is the human activity of discovery. Stories and information about people, events, and ideas bring science to life for teachers and students. Students were given a list of chemists to choose from for the paper and they were encouraged to work with partners on the people paper and presentation. Students' papers were bound into a booklet (appendix #12) so they will be able to use these as a resource when they get into the classroom. The papers were indexed according to both gender and ethnicity. Of the 28 people profiled in the winter quarter, 13 were women and 12 were minorities. Likewise in the spring quarter, of the 27 people profiled, 13 were women and 9 were minorities. The production of the booklet by the class enabled the students to realize that they could successfully collaborate to develop curricular material. The booklets will be put on the web site.
I liked that we were able to find things out for ourselves. They helped bring chemistry to a "real life" level. Fun and Interesting!!!
The laboratory activities were framed in a real life scenario to stimulate investigation and collaborative problem solving. They were planned to give students experiences with chemistry and to illustrate concepts.
For example students learned about heat
and chemical reactions through the following:
Energy Content of Nuts: Your company is interested in using Biomass as an alternative to fossil fuels for the production of electricity and heat. They realize that fossil fuels are non-renewable resources and cannot be depended upon through the next century. Your group is asked to find which nut provides the most energy per pound. Cost is also a consideration as well as availability.
I like being able to take the tests individually and then as a group. This helps us to see things we hay have missed the first time and be able to make up for the mistakes. this testing method reinforces the fact that you must be a strong individual, but you must also be a team player. They allow for us to talk about our answer and with discussion I believe comes better understanding.
Testing is best when it is also teaching. In addition to the performance assessments provided by student science club work, paper presentations, laboratory work and reports, and home assignments, we gave written content exams. The exams were designed to be done individually then immediately followed by the same exam done as part of a group. The students were allowed to form groups of 4-5 as they wished. The final grade for the exam was the average of the individual and group grades. This meant that the exams were half as long as the traditional class period exam.
We found that students recognized the testing as a valuable learning experience. While the grade generally went up as a result of the group exam, the final grade on the exam for over 70 percent of the students was increased by less than 10 percentage points. Additionally, we as instructors could see areas of strengths and weaknessesin the class learning.
I especially enjoyed and learned a lot from the guess speaker. He really helped bring organic chemistry to life He was so enthusiastic about what he was talking about that I think it made everybody else eager to learn more .He could answer any question anybody threw at him.
Contact with real scientists and teachers is a valued part of our course. We used the science club site teachers as visitors to show how science is presented and shared with kids. We also had scientists visit and make presentations and answer questions. Four visitors uses almost 10% of the "lecture time".
Gave me a chance to reflect on what we had gone over during the week. If there was something I didnt understand I could just write a question. I found this very convenient. It helped me realize what I did learn. I appreciate the comments you make in response to my question and statements. It is helpful and insightful.
Weekly blue books provided an avenue for individual discourse between the student and instructors. Students were encouraged to ask questions and to express their feelings and ideas about the class and/or its content. Students were asked to grade and comment on their overall performance each week in order to introduce them to reflective, self-evaluation practices which will be important in their teaching.
The weekly blue books also provided the instructors with feedback on the effectiveness of our teaching and so helped us to improve and refine the course as the quarter progressed. These journals were not graded.
With two teachers you can answer more questions and we can get different perspectives. This I believe really prevent the lectures form ever being boring and keeps the class moving at a remarkably quickened pace while not overwhelming.
Team teaching was not originally planned as part of the course design. However, both instructors wanted to see how the new pedagogy would unfold, so they both ended up in class most of the time. At the end of the course some students commented that team teaching was "the best part" of the course.
The activity based teaching invited team teaching. The instructors met before class to outline our teaching plans and to review where they were. It was found that team teaching requires good coordination and was time-demanding but was rewarding in that instructors learned from each other.