inquiry-based discovery learning

Are We Asking the Right Questions?

Are We Asking the Right Questions

           “So what corners of the periodic table do I have to memorize in order to get an A on the trends quiz?” This was a question that was asked by one of my students at the beginning of our periodicity unit. For countless educators we teach chemistry because we have a passion for trying to understand the world from an atomic level. However many of our students have extrinsic motivators which result in attempts to find shortcuts to recall the material. If we want to avoid responses like the one stated above we have to identify if we are asking thorough questions when assessing our students. 

JCE 92.11—November 2015 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education November 2015 Cover

Educational Opportunities and Challenges

The November 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: materials science; polymer chemistry activities; green chemistry; biochemistry in the laboratory; research on student attitudes and the transition from high school to college chemistry; assessment; computer-based learning and computations; from the archives: chemistry YouTube videos.

Target Inquiry Activities

From TIMU activity "More is Less".

Are kids learning? Given the time it takes to implement and grade the activity, do I get a lot of "educational moments" out of it? Does it fit into the culture of the classroom? Is there a great deal of "conceptually rich" material in the activity that students can build on? I believe that two activities I tried this week fit the bill.

Cookbook to Inquiry....Another Attempt

device for hydrate experiment

There is a hydrate lab which is done by many teachers. Typically, students first use a known hydrate and are provided the formula.  As an example, they might use CuSO4. 5H2O.  On paper, they would work through the percent by mass of water in copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate.  They then would be given a mass of the copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate, calculate how much water they should lose and then they would heat it and compare the data with the calculated value.  Next, they are given an unknown hydrate.  They are also given the molar mass of the unknown salt of the hydrate and they have to calculate the molar ratio of salt to water based on their data.  Here is one possible way to “tweak” this lab.

JCE 92.10— October 2015 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education October 2015 Cover

Celebrating National Chemistry Week 2015: Chemistry Colors Our World

The October 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. National Chemistry Week, a community-based annual event uniting ACS local sections, businesses, schools, and individuals in communicating the value of chemistry in our everyday life, is being celebrated October 18–24, 2015 with the theme “Chemistry Colors Our World”. Articles in this issue can help you make the most of this annual celebration.

What's Inquiry Got to do with it?


 Instead of focusing on an instructional label, why don’t we focus on what we are trying to accomplish with our students? Our classrooms should be a platform for students to actively explain science practices using evidence and no matter how you define your instruction, we cannot deny our students this opportunity. With the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, our students will be assessed based on performance expectations that not only link disciplinary knowledge, but scientific practice, and crosscutting concepts as well. “These performance expectations guide the development of assessments: when a standard encompasses all three strands, then so must the assessment. It will no longer be possible to meet a standard solely by recall of factual knowledge.” (Cooper, 2013).

Thank you "Lady from Texas"


I need to thank a lady from Texas. We had just finished the classification of matter and I have always wanted to follow up with a distillation. I have talked about it and once I even got some extremely expensive glassware that I carefully set up, managed to break by third bell and really ticked off the AP teacher. At Chem Ed 2015, a teacher from Texas showed me this quick and dirty way to do a distillation that the kids can do. First, let me say that this is not my idea. I forgot her name. "Lady from Texas", let me just say "thank you". If you are reading this, please shoot me an email and I will be more than happy to give you credit. It worked really well.

JCE 92.09— September 2015 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education September 2015 Cover

Effective Student Engagement

The September 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. This issue includes articles on flipped classroom; introductory and general chemistry; organic chemistry activities; biochemistry demonstrations and labs; computer-based learning; chemical education research; from the archive: chemistry in context.

JCE 92.08—August 2015 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education August 2015 Cover

Using Models and Modeling To Teach

The August 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers.  This issue includes articles on modeling instruction; Lewis dot structure model; molecular models; using models to teach crystal symmetry; introductory activities and labs; organic chemistry investigations and tools for engagement; enabling chemistry training for low vision or blind students; chemical education research in the literature; celebrating the work of Melanie Cooper; forensic chemistry articles from past issues.