Increasing the effectiveness of classroom chemistry demonstrations

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


William Butler Yeats once wrote "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." I believe that a safe, well-structure, inquiry-based demonstration provides an opportunity to do both in a classroom; light a fire and fill a pail. And more specifically, a science demonstration draws on a student's natural wonder about the world around them. In only for a brief moment, a science demonstration causes the student to ask "How did that happened?" or "Why did that just do that?" At that moment and the moments that follow, a teacher has an extraordinary opportunity to simultaneously "light a fire" and to "fill a pail." This study aims to discover the best practice methods for improving the depth of learning and understanding that surrounds a well-structured, inquiry-based demonstration. Specifically, the study seeks to determine how the effectiveness of a demonstration can be increased when students are required to record observations and make connections between the demo and real-world applications. As well, the study aims to determine if peer collaboration and discussion is a critical element for student understanding and to make connections between textbook concepts and practical examples. Lastly, the study will evaluate the value of demonstrations presented in-person versus in video format. The study will involve two sections of Chemistry C, which is an elective upper-level course. Approximately 45 students will be included in the study. The study will be conducted during the unit Chemical Reactions and Types because the unit naturally includes several demonstrations within the curriculum. Qualitative and quantitative data collection methods will be utilized during the course of this study. These methods include a summative assessment for the Chemical Reactions and Types Unit, a student survey, a student questionnaire, several student interviews and several other data collection sources.




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