Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Reactions in Chemistry
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The Philosophy of Reactions in Chemistry

Why REACTIONS in chemistry? The dictionary definition of REACTION is: "response due to priority of priority situation" (www.babylon.com). In chemistry, though, it means chemical change: "A chemical change is a dissociation, recombination, or rearrangement of atoms. " In both situations, reaction relates to something dynamic in which change is involved, either by changing our doing in response to a stimulus, or by changing and creating structures made up of atoms.

Change is the keyword for all that relates to inservice professional development of teachers. Teachers apply to programs for professional development because they seek change: change in their teaching methods, change in the curriculum, and change in their understanding of the subject matter. The basic idea of such programs is to give the teachers the support that they need in order to create this change, on the professional level, and from the social and personal points of view.

Professionally speaking, teachers look for widening their scope of knowledge in their own discipline and in related topics; they look for new lesson plans and classroom activities for teaching and evaluating students; they want to adjust their curriculum to new educational standards; they want to gain experience in inserting new materials into their classroom teaching.

In the social and personal aspects, teachers look for support in implementing new teaching methods, devising new ways for evaluation, and strengthening their position in their own eyes and in front of their peers and students. They come to the development program in order to share their knowledge and experience, discuss their ideas, and generalize patterns of teaching according to new standards.

Chemistry is a very challenging discipline for teaching. On the one hand, it relates to almost all we do in life: to processes in our human body, to the composition of the food we eat, to the materials we use, and to the techno-logical developments, which constantly change our lives. On the other hand, it is a very complicated discipline of science. It deals with atomic structure, reaction kinetics, energetics of bond breaking and formation, and so on. All of these are processes on the microscopic scale and require a deep understanding in order to do the necessary calculations. The challenge of teaching chemistry is teaching the basics of the scientific method and training for inquiry and problem-solving skills.

A workshop for chemistry teachers’ professional development should give an answer to all of these needs. In Reactions in Chemistry, a great deal of attention was given to these issues. The workshop is composed of video, a Web site, and print materials: a multimedia production that is aimed at engulfing the learners’ different capabilities such as observing, listening, and communicating. Teachers who participate in the workshop sessions will meet, watch the program, and conduct discussions both in session and online. This collaboration is essential for developing the social aspects discussed, sharing lesson plans and information, practicing new issues about teaching, and creating new connections with other chemistry teachers. The program echoes these principles by featuring chemistry teachers and experts who discuss ideas from their own teaching experience in secondary schools and universities and contribute to the process of change.

Reflection about one’s own practices in teaching is also an essential part of professional development. Teachers who participate in the workshop sessions will get a chance to review their teaching methods on their own and with their peers. They will share new ideas that come up during discussions or are featured in the video programs and try to implement these in their classrooms, guided by the print guide and Web site. The workshop sessions and the online discussions provide the support required for teachers to discuss their new experiences, examine the reasons for their failures and successes, and create the change they want in a safe and supporting environment.

Specifically, Reactions in Chemistry tries to give answers to difficulties that arise directly from chemistry teaching, such as problem solving, laboratory learning, addressing the invisible, materializing new concepts, and creating the connections between micro processes and macro phenomena. Everyday topics such as environmental and technological issues are harnessed to demonstrate chemistry in action; models and analogies are brought forth by scientists and teachers; new lesson plans, in the classroom and the laboratory, are presented and discussed in the program; a wealth of electronic and printed information is referred to, creating a basis for knowledge development.

In summary, Reactions in Chemistry aims at helping teachers improve their own teaching, by forming a multi-media, multidisciplinary learning environment, from which teachers may extract whatever they find valuable for creating change in their own teaching methods.

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