Chemistry ConcepTests: A Pathway to Interactive Classrooms

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9780130906281: Chemistry ConcepTests: A Pathway to Interactive Classrooms

This book explains what a ConcepTest is, how to craft one, how to implement this technique, and it provides a number of tools that will help readers use ConcepTests with a minimum of effort. This comprehensive and versatile book covers what ConcepTests are, the impact they have on readers, and more. For readers interested in cooperative learning.

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From the Inside Flap:

Preface

This is an exciting time to be teaching introductory chemistry courses. Breathtaking advances in research and technology are reshaping our knowledge base and skills, as well as those of our students. Deriving energy from the same sources, the field of chemical education is in the midst of a parallel era of intense activity. From a teacher's perspective, increasingly sophisticated tools now exist for communicating chemical knowledge to students and for assessing their mastery of content and skills. These developments are catalyzing reappraisals of how we teach and how our students learn effectively, and they have led to the creation of a plethora of new instructional tools and techniques. The appearance of these new instructional resources is timely, because, as articulated by the National Science Foundation's visionary blueprint, "Shaping the Future," enhancing science literacy for all students and attracting a talented, diverse group of students to careers in our technical workforce remain critically important but elusive objectives of introductory college science courses.

Fundamental research on how students construct knowledge has raised consciousness in the instructional community that students have different learning styles. Learning methods that encourage students to engage scientific concepts collaboratively have been shown to enhance student performance, persistence, and attitude. As students work with one another, they learn from one another.

This booklet is an introduction to an emerging peer-teaching technique—ConcepTests—that we believe has great promise for the effective teaching of introductory chemistry courses. Inspired by Eric Mazur's teaching of undergraduate physics at Harvard, the disarmingly simple method of asking focused questions in lecture, then permitting students to vote, discuss, and vote again on the answer, has altered not just course mechanics but course culture in our experience. The peer instructional practices that it promotes can enliven a course for both students and instructors. We have used the method repeatedly in introductory chemistry classes since Mazur introduced it in the early 1990s, and provide in this booklet a qualitative description of some of our experiences and examples of its usage. Our goal is to introduce other chemistry teachers to this technique and some of its many variations. It is important to emphasize that this book is not meant to be a scholarly monograph on the topic of ConcepTests, nor has any attempt been made to quantitate successes of the method by metrics that would meet the stringent standards of education research. Rather, it is written more in the spirit of trying to describe the method to a colleague who has stopped by for an informal chat to learn about it. It will also be apparent that the impact of ConcepTests cannot be determined in isolation but must be viewed in the context of all aspects of an instructor's course.

A symposium on ConcepTests, held at the 1997 Spring ACS National Meeting in San Francisco with more than a dozen institutions represented provided concrete evidence that a growing number of instructors were exploring the use of conceptually-oriented questions to foster more interactive lectures in chemistry courses. Many of the variations presented there have been incorporated into this booklet. The New Traditions Curriculum Reform Project and the ChemLinks Project, both funded by the National Science Foundation under its Initiative for Revitalizing the Undergraduate Chemistry Curriculum, supported further development and experimentation with ConcepTests in large lecture situations. A videotape of classroom ConcepTest usage and a website were produced under the auspices of the project and can be used to supplement the information presented in this booklet.

Creation of this booklet would not have been possible without the generous support of Prentice Hall and the National Science Foundation through the New Traditions and ChemLinks projects. We are grateful to John Challice, Kristen Kaiser, and Ben St. Jacques at Prentice Hall for helping to guide this project and to Hal Richtol at the National Science Foundation and our National Advisory Boards for their advice and encouragement. We thank our colleagues Charles Casey, Ieva Reich, Lorena Tribe, Earl Peace, and John Moore for sharing their experiences with the use of ConcepTests in their classrooms. Tricia Metz, Dianne Bunce, and Susan Millar are thanked for their help in evaluating the use of ConcepTests. We acknowledge helpful comments from several reviewers and a particularly thoughtful, detailed review by Dr. Michael Sanger. We are indebted to Patti Puccio for typesetting this work.

Just as we view research as a moving target, the use of ConcepTests can be considered a work in progress with rich opportunities to explore its use in a multitude of classroom settings. We invite readers to try the method and to share their experiences and assessments with the instructional community. We hope that this booklet will encourage continued classroom experimentation with ConcepTests and with many other strategies for enhancing student learning of chemistry.

Clark R. Landis
Arthur B. Ellis
George C. Lisensky
Julie K. Lorenz
Kathleen Meeker
Carl C. Wamser

Madison, Wisconsin
August, 2000

From the Back Cover:

Chemistry ConcepTests: A Pathway to Interactive Classrooms is an introduction to an emerging peer-teaching technique for the effective teaching of introductory chemistry courses. The simple method of asking focused questions in lecture, then permitting students to vote, discuss, and vote again on the answer, has altered not just course mechanics but course culture. The peer instructional practices that it promotes can enliven a course for both students and instructors. This book introduces chemistry teachers to this technique and some of its many variations.

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Landis, Clark R.; Ellis, Arthur B.; Lisenky, George C.; Lorenz, Julie K.; Meeker, Kathleen; Wamser, Carl C.
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