Day 102: Reality Check


Today, I asked my conceptual chemistry class to give me feedback about the class so far — what they felt was working (left side) and what wasn’t working (right side).


We’ve been working through the OPPS Nature of Matter workshop sequence. It has been a bit slow — I only have 40 minute classes (no lab periods for the “conceptual” science courses), many kids arrive late (despite phone calls home, etc.), and then we have to leave time for clean up. So we only get to talk about 1 or 2 demos a day.

And there aren’t any formal notes (like powerpoint slides). BUT we do debrief after each section before moving on. And I’ve been taking pictures of all their whiteboards and my boardwork each day and sharing them on Evernote.

We’ve been mainly looking at evidence for the particle nature of matter and how solids, liquids, and gases differ based on the particle model. On the most recent quiz, when asked specifically to use the particle model to explain some demos that we had done, about half just repeated back what we had observed and made no discussion of the particles.

You’ll also notice a several kids disliked that I wasn’t giving “right” answers and that the class shouldn’t be “opinon-based.”

On one hand, the curriculum and activies and concepts may seem a bit “babyish” to them and hence the complaints and not being very serious about participating with whiteboards or recording our inferences and explanations. But on the other hand, they aren’t exactly rocking the concepts either. Perhaps a switch to the Modeling Chemistry materials?

I’ll have to do some better climate setting. I was explicit about why I teach the way I do (they learn better) and what I want them to know when the course is over (how to think, not chemistrivia).

At least the whiteboards are a hit…



About Frank Noschese

HS Physics Teacher constantly questioning my teaching.

4 responses to “Day 102: Reality Check”

  1. pshircliff says :

    they are so trained in the sit & git mode….tell me the right answer so I can repeat it back and act like I am learning….

  2. Brian Frank says :

    I feel this. This is similar to feedback I got in my inquiry class last semester. Lots of students complained about the slow pace, not getting the answer, and not feeling they were learning much. Many complained about having capstones in order to get an A. Other students, who liked the course, complained about the other students’ immaturity and how their behavior was ruining class.I made both changes you are suggesting for this current semester???I tweeked the curriculum, and spend a lot more time helping to build the right culture. It’ll be interesting to see how their feedback goes, which will be soon.

  3. Hillby258 says :

    I think they might feel less like it was opinion based if you made the switch to the language of conclusions based on our observations. I noticed many of my students struggled with figuring out what was important to write down during these discussions, so I started taking notes with them – being sure to scratch out disproved ideas, big question marks next to things we’re not sure about and so on.

  4. Anonymous says :

    Thanks, Chris! I’m going to try those strategies.

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