The use of computer-based and inquiry-based learning activities to differentiate instruction for high school chemistry
Good, R. Brian
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Annville-Cleona High School is a small school located in southeastern Pennsylvania. The school only offers one chemistry course: 'College Prep Chemistry'. Students' abilities in science vary greatly within each section of this course. Scores on the Pennsylvania, high-stakes biology exam range from below basic to advanced. Students' math abilities also vary as some are enrolled in AP Calculus, while others are enrolled in Algebra II. It is challenging to meet the needs of these diverse learners in a single classroom. In this research project, self-paced learning activities were created to teach advanced students challenging topics that were not part of the core curriculum and to provide remediation for students who were struggling with core topics. Video lessons and guided inquiries were used to teach the advanced topics, and video lessons alone were used as remediation. Instantaneous feedback via formative assessments was a key component of these learning activities. The research was conducted during the unit on molecules and compounds. Two of the four sections served as the treatment group and the other two sections served as the comparison group. Most students in the treatment group and all the students in the comparison group received the core curriculum. Formative assessments were given after each topic was taught to identify students who did not master the topic. Students in the treatment group who scored poorly on a formative assessment were assigned the remediation video lesson. Twelve advanced students in the treatment group learned three challenging topics in addition to the core topics. The results showed that computer-based and inquiry-based learning activities were effective tools for differentiating instruction. About three-fourths of the time advanced students mastered the additional, challenging topics. Over two-thirds of the struggling students were able to improve their understanding of a topic from basic to proficient or advanced after completing the remedial video lesson. Furthermore, students had favorable attitudes about video lessons. Student surveys showed that almost two-thirds of the students liked video lessons and more than 80% of them liked the instantaneous feedback they received from these lessons.