Chemistry class at Plainville High School seeks to help learners understand the nature of matter that makes up the world around them, specifically the particulate nature of matter. The idea that matter is made of of smaller particles (atoms, molecules and ionic units) is essential to understanding the behavior of matter.
Understanding the role of energy in the states of matter (solid, liquid and gas) and changes between these states goes a long way toward contrasting these physical changes with chemical changes later in the course. The goal of this series of lessons will be to enable students to describe changes in energy as a material undergoes phase changes (melting/freezing, vaporization/condensation) as well as the changes to particle motion occurring between phase changes.
This unit is devised for high school students taking chemistry (level 1 or 2) at Plainville High School (PHS) in Plainville, Connecticut. These courses are designed for college-bound students. Though not a graduation requirement, students are encouraged to participate regardless of their intended major. Algebra II is a prerequisite or may be taken concurrently. Students participating chemistry attend class for 50 minutes three or four times a week and use eLearning technologies in and outside of the classroom. All PHS students are provided a Google Chromebook so they can access eLearning technologies at any time. This 1:1 program has been active for approximately four school years. Students in these chemistry courses are between the ages of 15 and 17.
Plainville High School is a public high school that serves the students of a small (9.6 square miles), mostly blue-collar (68%, 2000 census) town as well as students from Hartford Public Schools through the Project Choice program (New England Association of Schools and Colleges [NEASC], 2008). The high school served 864 students during the 2008-2009 school year (NEASC, 2008). The school’s population is predominantly Caucasian (86.6% in 2008-2009) (NEASC, 2008). The median income, according to the 2000 census, was $48,136, which was below the state average with 15% of the school community living below poverty (NEASC, 2008). The 2006 to 2007 per pupil expenditures, $10,549, were below the state average of $11,558 (NEASC, 2008). Plainville High School, built in the 1930s, underwent an expansion in the1960s and a 2008 renovation. A new principal was appointed for the current (2016-1017) school year. System wide, a new superintendent and assistant superintendent were appointed for this school year. These positions were filled by promoting the high school principal to assistant superintendent and the assistant superintendent to superintendent.
Conversation Theory (or Constructivist Theory) and Cognitive Load Theory will inform the development of teaching and learning in this series of lessons. Gordon Pask’s Conversation Theory says that conversations help to make learning explicit. (Instructional Design, 2013).
The materials developed for these lessons will help students to develop mental images of each concept and its relationship to prior knowledge and experience as well as moving the concepts from short to long-term memory. This will be accomplished through their participation in organizing or working with the ideas and concepts. The activities will be delivered in class where students will be able to collaborate with one another in person to develop their product or complete their task. This will be beneficial because it is through conversation that students are able to develop lasting connections related to new content. Learning will be constructivist because it will an active process, including conversation, where students will create new meaning from pre existing and prior knowledge (Keesee, 2011). Being able to apply what is learned in novel situations is also a goal more closely associated with the constructivist theory of learning (Keesee, 2011). However, because goals will be defined by the teacher and outcomes are not expected to be highly individualized, much of these lessons are more in line with Cognitivism Learning Theory (or Cognitive Learning Theory) (Keesee, 2011).
To develop a mental model of the behavior of particles during and between phase changes, the following sub-topics will be addressed. First, students will have experience with the concepts of heat and temperature. This will help students to organize the concept of energy and the types of energy that are relevant to chemistry. Next, they will examine how the addition of energy affects the particles in a substance. This will help students to understand differences between thermal energy (a type of kinetic energy) and phase energy (a type of potential energy). Third, students will learn to examine energy changes in various situations, make predictions about these changes, and communicate their predictions. This will allow students to practice connecting phase changes to the concept of energy changes. Finally, students will learn how changes in energy and phase changes can be applied in heating and cooling (such as in a refrigerator) giving their learning practical application. These lessons will lay the foundation for understanding the difference between energy changes within a single substance and those between substances (such as in a chemical reaction). Each subtopic will incorporate a different learning technology. These are mapping, presentation, games and mobile learning
InstructionalDesign.Org. (2013). Conversation Theory (Gordon Pask). Retrieved November 4, 2016, from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/conversation-theory.html
Keesee, G. S. (Ed.). (2011, May 27). Learning Theories. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from http://teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com/w/page/19919554/TLR Home
New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Public SecondarySchools (2009). Report of the visiting committee for Plainville high school.
Paas, Fred, Renkl, Alexander, and Sweller, John. (2003). Cognitive load theory and instructional design: Recent developments. Educational Psychologist. 38(1), 1-4.