Supporting Sensemaking in High School Chemistry: This research-practice partnership aims to create, implement and refine a curricular activity system for high school chemistry that supports students in explaining aspects of their existence in terms of atomic/molecular behavior. Learning environments we design are structured around scaffolded sequences of “big ideas” (e.g., energy, electrostatic and bonding interactions) that build in complexity as students make sense of increasingly complex systems. Our work will contribute to a nuanced understanding of how high school students can be supported in molecular-level sensemaking as well as a robust and flexible system of materials aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. Funded by NSF DRL 2003680.
Characterizing 3D Learning Across Transformed Chemistry Learning Environments: The National Academies’ consensus study A Framework for K-12 Science Education describes learning in science as using fundamental disciplinary ideas in practices characteristic of work in science as framed by crosscutting lenses. This sort of “3-Dimensional” learning is much more representative of work in science than simply “knowing stuff”. In collaboration with Michigan State University and the University of Iowa, our group seeks to examine how assessment and instructional emphasis relate to student ability to make sense of phenomena on assessments as well as their sense of “what is going on here” in phenomena-focused interviews. Focal courses for this work are each designed around a different transformation strategy. Ascertaining the relative efficacy of various reform efforts will enable inferences as to how all students can be effectively supported in making sense of the world in terms of atomic/molecular behavior.
Focusing Organic Chemistry on “Figuring Out” Causes for Phenomena: The long-term goal of this program is to promote the use of learning environment designs that engage organic chemistry-enrolled students in constructing, critiquing, and using evidence-based models to make sense of chemical phenomena. The objective of our current work is to examine the impact of model-focused organic chemistry laboratory and/or lecture courses on students’ engagement in the cognitive processes of “figuring out,” as well as on students’ epistemological framing of their knowledge construction work. Baseline data regarding how lab and lecture-enrolled students engage in sensemaking will inform the design and integration of curricular materials aimed at supporting students in constructing and critiquing explanations for phenomena they do not yet understand. Designed materials will be refined year-to-year in response to assessment and interview data.